Women land a quarter of new directorships

WOMEN are taking a quarter of new appointments to the boards of FTSE 100 companies, according to figures released today by a group pushing for greater equality at the top of public companies.

All but six firms at the top level of British business now have a women on their board. Campaigners said business is on track to meet Lord Davies’ target of 25 per cent representation by 2015.

However, women are far more likely to be appointed to non-executive scrutiny roles rather than top executive jobs such as chief executives or chief financial officer.

Just 6.1 per cent of FTSE 100 executive directors are women, up only slightly in the last two years since Lord Davies published his landmark report on the topic.

This has led to criticisms that companies are boosting their quotas by appointing women to part-time non-executive positions.

“Appointing more women as non executive directors is not an end in itself,” said business secretary Vince Cable. “This is about more talented women getting executive experience, so that they will not only advise, but run this country’s great companies.”

The top tier companies that continue to have all-male boards are: resources firms Antofagasta, Croda, Glencore Xstrata and Vedanta; bourse operator London Stock Exchange; and investment group Melrose.

Diageo and Unilever are the only FTSE 100 firms where women hold more than a third of boardroom jobs.

But Heather Jackson, founder of the Women’s Business Forum, said too much emphasis is placed at representation at the very top table.

“What we really need to be concentrating on is fixing and developing the leaking pipeline of female talent at middle management,” she said. “The percentage increase of women at executive level in UK business over last few years has been minimal because we have not addressed the real issue.”

She says women should be given increased access to mentoring services to help with their career progression.