A third of board positions at companies in the FTSE 100 are held by women, a review has found.
The latest report from the Hampton-Alexander Review found 349 women sit on boards at the UK’s biggest firms.
The government said the review’s “fantastic work” had seen it hit the target almost a year early.
However, the review did highlight a lack of women in senior and executive roles.
The report said women make up 15 per cent of finance directors compared with 66 per cent of human resource directors.
The review’s chief executive, Denise Wilson, said unconscious bias and gender stereotypes around what a leader should look like were preventing further progress.
“I think 33% is a very good start, but as we can see, we have a lot further to go before we see a good gender balance in the leadership of British business,” she told the BBC.
Andrea Leadsom said that FTSE firms needed to do more despite voluntarily reaching the one in three target.
“The Hampton-Alexander Review has done fantastic work but it’s clear that women continue to face barriers to success, whether that’s through promotion to key roles or how they are treated by colleagues,” the business secretary said.
It’s not ‘job done’
The Institute of Directors welcomed the report as evidence that focusing the “spotlight on diversity can change the behaviour of big companies”.
However, it cautioned that it was “not a case of ‘job done’.”
“There is still a glaring lack of diversity at executive level and among chairs, and firms must continue to strive towards a more inclusive culture or they risk slipping backwards,” Charlotte Valeur, chair of the Institute of Directors, said.
“While female board participation may have increased, we’re still on the journey towards businesses better reflecting their workforces and customers.”
Women on Boards UK chief executive Fiona Hathorn was less happy with the progress made and said progress outside the FTSE 350 and in UK business as a whole had been glacial.
She said the focus needed to be on the top levels of company management not just the board.