Firms name more women to boards but lack execs

Elizabeth Fournier

THE UK’S biggest listed firms are making “steady progress” towards hitting 2015 targets to increase the number of women in their boardrooms, but still failing to hire women for executive roles, according to new figures released this morning.

The latest report from the Cranfield School of Management shows that women now make up 19 per cent of FTSE 100 and 15 per cent of FTSE 250 board positions – the highest proportion since the survey began in 1999.

In the last six months since the statistics were last updated, 27 per cent of new appointments to FTSE 100 boards and 30 per cent to FTSE 250 boards went to women. But though 33 new executives joined the ranks of the top 100 firm’s boards in the year to 1 October, just four of those appointments were female, with women still more likely to land non-executive roles.

This means that the so-called pipeline of senior women coming through the system has still failed to materialise, despite graduate recruitment becoming more and more evenly balanced between the sexes.

“This is clearly too small a percentage ... to effect any significant increase in the percentage of women holding these positions,” said the report.

In the past 12 months, two of the most prominent female CEOs in the FTSE 100 – Pearson’s Dame Marjorie Scardino and former Anglo American boss Cynthia Carroll – have stepped down, with Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts due to follow suit next year.

This leaves just EasyJet’s Carolyn McCall and Imperial Tobacco’s Alison Cooper leading FTSE 100 firms, though this will be boosted next month when Royal Mail, led by Canadian businesswoman Moya Greene, joins the index.

The report also found that nearly all (94 per cent) FTSE 100 companies now acknowledge the need for greater boardroom diversity and two-thirds (65 per cent) have a clear policy to achieve it.

“It has been a long and slow journey but it is encouraging to see the UK is making steady progress towards the 2015 target of 25 per cent,” said co-author Professor Susan Vinnicombe.