FTSE 100 companies have been sitting up and taking notice of the attention the lack of women on boards has received, by the looks of things. According Lord Davies of Abersoch’s first annual progress report on his Women on Boards review, the percentage of FTSE 100 directorships held by women has leapt from 12.5% to 15.6%. And the percentage of appointments in the FTSE being taken up by women has also jumped, from 13% to 27%. Not bad at all. Although Davies does acknowledge that there’s still work to be done.
This time last year, Lord Davies’ recommendation was that by 2015, 25% of FTSE 100 boards should be made up of women (at the moment, 17 companies have already hit that target). At the moment, 141 women hold 163 FTSE 100 directorships, out of a total of 1,086 positions, but according to figures out today from Cranfield School of Management, we’re on course to break that target: in fact, if things keep going at this rate, 26.7% of boards will be made up by women by the deadline.
But, as Davies pointed out, progress is slow. Things are a little different on the FTSE 250, where just 21 companies (that’s less than 10%) have managed to hit that 25% target. And while the number of women being appointed to non-executive director positions is on the up, the same can’t be said for the executive tier, where the number of women being appointed hasn’t moved by much.
While Davies shied away from introducing quotas, their threat still looms large. Although consensus seems to be they’re a bad idea. Lobby group the 30% Club, for instance, reckons they’re ‘unnecessary’ and ‘potentially damaging’, while Carmen Watson, MD of recruitment consultant network the Pertemps Network, said it could ‘create tension among executives who have reached their position on merit alone, and this ultimately does a disservice to the many talented women we have in the UK.’
So chances are that if companies can keep going at this rate, quotas aren’t going to happen. Although we did sense a veiled threat when Davies said that ‘efforts need to be ramped up and the speed of change accelerated if we’re to avoid government interference’. Be afraid. Be very afraid...