In March 2011, Lord Davies of Abersoch published his first Government-backed report on women on boards, with the target of doubling the percentage of female FTSE 100 directors from 12.5% to 25% by 2015. Four years later, that figure is 23.5% and set to hit a quarter by the end of the year. But, forgive the cliché, far more still needs to be done.
There is no doubt that, as business secretary Vince Cable triumphantly put it, ‘FTSE 100 boards have made enormous progress.’ There was scepticism over whether companies would get their act together without the stick of Norwegian-style quotas to harry them along, but the FTSE 100 is just 17 female directors shy of hitting its 25% target by the end of the year. There are also now no male-only boards, according to Cranfield School of Management, which crunched the numbers.
The top 10* FTSE 100 companies
*adjusted for equal rankings
But the picture is less rosy over at the FTSE 250, where just 18% of directors are female and 23 companies still don’t have a single woman on their board. It did start from a lower base: just 7.8% of directors were women in 2011 and 131 companies had all-male boards, compared to 21 over at the FTSE 100. But still, poor show – especially from these 23.
There has also been far less progress when it comes to female executive directors – most of the appointments have been of the non-executive variety. In four years only six more female executives were appointed to the FTSE 100, taking the total to 24. And there are still only five female chief execs and three female chairmen, compared to five and two in 2011.
The FTSE 250 lets the side down even more: only 25 female executives, two fewer than 2011 and nine chief execs, down from 10. At least there are now eight female chairmen, compared to none four years ago.
It remains to be seen whether there will be new and more ambitious targets for women on boards – for example, executive search firm Egon Zehnder has set a target of 25 FTSE 100 women chief execs by 2025. But companies need to work harder on retaining and promoting women to executive level within the company if we are to have any chance of getting even close to gender parity.
And without challenging targets, progress could well slip. ‘Our predictions suggest that as we approach 2020, women’s representation on FTSE 100 boards is likely to stagnate around 28%,’ Cranfield’s Dr Elena Doldor said. ‘There are still not enough women on executive committees or in the executive pipeline. Introducing aspirational and measurable targets for women at all levels is the only way to achieve real progress.’ Word.