The onwards march of gender equality in business lost pace last year, according to a report by the Korn Ferry Institute. Only 28% of new non-executive directors (NEDs) of FTSE 350 companies were women in 2013, down from 47% in 2012.
The apparent regression didn’t stop there. The proportion of new NEDs who already held directorships in plcs rose from 37% to 46%, while the average age increased from 52 to 56.
The report infers that the appointments reflect characteristics in demand for NEDs, stating that ‘appointments in 2013 reverted to a more traditional candidate profile – particularly among mid-cap companies’.
While the numbers may support this assertion, it’s a bit soon to lament 2012 as the high-water mark of female representation in business. This is only the second year that the head hunter has recorded this data, after all, and of course there are going to be swings in the numbers year on year.
It's also unlikely, moreover, that firms have suddenly decided that now they’ve got one woman on their board, they don’t want any more of that sort, thank you very much.
While the proportion of women becoming NEDs in 2013 was low (50% would have been nice), it was still greater than the proportion of women board members in total, which currently trails the 25%-by-2015 target set by the 2011 Davies Report. Besides, the proportion of women NEDs appointed in the first three months of 2014 was back at 46%, near 2012 levels.
Basically, these latest numbers aren’t much cause for panic just yet.
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