Women Fail to Get Top Jobs as FTSE 100 Seeks Boardroom Balance

The number of women on the boards of Britain’s biggest companies has reached 20.7 percent, compared with 17.3 percent last year, though most are only being appointed to non-executive roles, a report showed today.

Of the 291 executive directors on FTSE 100 boards, 20 are women, the same number as two years ago, while 211 of the 826 non-executive directors are female, up from 143 in 2012, according to the report by Cranfield School of Management, which has charted women’s progress in boardrooms for 15 years.

A government-commissioned report in 2011 set a target of 25 percent women on boards by 2015 after the panel, led by Mervyn Davies, ex-chairman of Standard Chartered Plc, ruled out setting quotas for companies.

“Women are not being appointed to executive positions, despite there being a wealth of suitable candidates,” the report’s author, Professor Susan Vinnicombe, director of the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders, said in a statement. “While it is important to meet the 25 percent target, we need sustainable change that will ensure diversity on our boards in executive positions as well as NED roles.”

There are a record number of non-executive-director positions in the FTSE 100, at 826 compared with 610 in 1999, and the lowest number of executive-director positions, at 291 compared with 645, making it harder for women to get executive positions, the report said.

All-Male Boards

There are now just two FTSE 100 companies with all-male boards -- Glencore Xstrata Plc and Antofagasta Plc -- compared with one in five which had no women in 2011, the report said. Capita Plc and Diageo Plc have the highest proportion of women on their boards, with 44.4 percent, while 36 companies in the FTSE 100 have reached Davies’s 25 percent target.

“These latest figures show that businesses are getting the right mix of talent around their boardroom table and understand the importance of this,” Business Secretary Vince Cable said in an e-mailed statement. “More needs to done to improve the number of women in executive positions. These will be the CEOs of tomorrow and businesses still aren’t tapping into the vast talent pool available to them.”

Non-executive directors “provide a creative contribution to the board by providing objective criticism,” according to a fact sheet published by the Institute of Directors. They are “expected to focus on board matters and not stray into ‘executive direction,’ thus providing an independent view of the company that is removed from day-to-day running.”

Approach ‘Working’

Davies, who also published a review of progress today, said the figures showed that he was right to trust companies to increase the number of women without the need for legislation.

“The voluntary approach is working and companies have got the message that better balanced boards bring real business benefits,” he said. “However, the eyes of the world are on us as we enter the home straight. They are judging us as to whether the voluntary approach, rather than regulation, will work -– we need to now prove we can do this on our own.”

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