FTSE 350 boardroom diversity is up as women made up four in ten new directors appointed last year

Clara Guibourg
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"This is evidence that boards are casting the net wider and looking for new blood" (Source: Getty)

More women than ever are being appointed to UK boards, as four in 10 of new non-executive directors last year were female.

The composition of boardrooms is changing dramatically, with the percentage of women joining boards quadrupling over the past seven years, from 11 per cent in 2007 to 39 per cent in 2014, shows talent consulting firm Korn Ferry’s annual research on first-time non-executive directors on FTSE 350 boards.

Richard Emerton, the firm’s chief executive, commented:

Gender balance has seen the most significant shift in the first-time NED appointments in recent years. The combined efforts of politicians, Chairmen, pressure groups and executive search firms have had a substantial impact.

These figures are echoed by the efforts of Britain’s most powerful companies, as the FTSE 100 companies recently met their target of having 25 per cent female directors, set by Lord Davies in 2011.

General management and finance companies’ boards have had a particularly drastic growth of new female directors, up 940 per cent in just a year, from five women appointed in 2013 to 52 in 2014.

Read more: These are the worst sectors for boardroom diversity

Overall, Korn Ferry found that companies are bringing more “new blood” in, with first-time directors making up more than half of the 434 board members that were appointed to FTSE 350 boards last year, up from 48 per cent two years previously, which is partly driven by the push for greater gender diversity, but also a return of IPO activity over the past two years.

This is evidence that boards are casting the net wider and looking for new blood, but it also puts pressure on chairmen to ensure that these ‘inexperienced’ appointees are thoroughly inducted and carefully mentored as they learn the craft of public company directorship.

As gender diversity is on the rise, however, Korn Ferry has found that other types of diversity are stagnating or even declining, with the proportion of non-British directors down since 2007.

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