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by Tom Freeman
25 March 2015
Women on UK corporate boards double in four years, but only to less than a quarter

Women on UK corporate boards double in four years, but only to less than a quarter

The number of women sitting on the boards of Britain’s top companies has almost doubled in the last four years, but still comprises less than a quarter of the total.

Female representation on FTSE 100 boards is now at 23.5 per cent, according to the latest annual report from Lord Davies of Abersoch, who was commissioned by Business Secretary Vince Cable to investigate gender diversity in boardrooms.

Despite being short of Lord Davies’ target of 25 per cent by this year, the UK Government has hailed it as “significant progress”.

“The voluntary approach is working, boards are getting fixed,” said Davies.

Cable said he expected a third of female representation by 2020. “I am confident we will reach our target this year, but our work is not complete. British business must keep its eye on the long game, as we strive to achieve gender parity,” he said.

Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan said she wanted to see women moving up to more senior positions, but welcomed the rise. “When we started this work in 2011 there were 21 FTSE 100 boards that had no women on them. Now there are no all-male boards left. This is great news,” she said.

Emma Ritch, executive director of Scottish feminist campaigning organisation Engender, said: “It’s perhaps an indicator of how far we have to go to achieve women’s equality that attaining 25 per cent board representation by women appears to have provoked such excitement. 

“There is so much evidence that gender balance on boards drives better corporate performance that companies who fail to appoint women are acting against their own best interests, and the interests of all of those who want to see better corporate citizens. It’s not quite time to cross quotas off the list of possible solutions.”

The Scottish Government has said it will launch a Partnership for Change pledge in 2015 to challenge all organisations to set a voluntary target for 50:50 gender balanced boards by 2020.

A report for the Scottish Government by Napier University in December identified training and mentoring as key strategies, but said countries which had legislated for quotas achieved higher levels of female boardroom membership than those that have adopted voluntary approaches.

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