Women in U.K. Executive Director Roles Reach Record Numbers

Updated on

Women now make up 8.6 percent of executive directorships on FTSE 100 boards, an all-time high, according to research by the Cranfield University School of Management.

“The tide is turning as we see senior women in every sector and across all industries, breaking through the barriers to succeed at the highest levels,” Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said Wednesday in the report. “Few leaders today remain to be convinced that the input of a diverse workforce challenges conventional thinking, better reflects the customer base and leads to improved output and innovation.”

Twenty-four women now hold executive directorships within the FTSE 100. Of this number just five are chief executive officers, with Veronique Laury-Deroubaix being appointed to Group CEO of Kingfisher Plc alongside Moya Greene at Royal Mail Plc, Liv Garfield at Severn Trent Plc, Alison Cooper at Imperial Tobacco Group Plc and Carolyn McCall at EasyJet Plc. There are 10 female chief financial officers and three female chairmen within the index, according to the report.

All-male boards have totally disappeared from the FTSE 100, four years after a government commitment to increase the number of women there to 25 percent. Women now make up 23.5 percent of FTSE 100 boards in total, up from 12.5 percent in 2011. The U.K. is on track to achieve the 25 percent goal by the end of this year, with only 17 more women needed to achieve the target, Cranfield said.

Share Performance

Drinks producer Diageo Plc and Intercontinental Hotels Group Plc have the highest number of women on their boards, totaling about 45 percent. Global mining giant Glencore Plc was the last company on the index with an all-male board to appoint a woman, which it did in June.

On a global basis, shares of companies with a female board presence have widened their outperformance compared with those without one over the last five years, according to a September report by Credit Suisse Group AG.

While the U.K. is attempting to reach the 25 percent goal without imposed quotas, some European countries, such as Norway, have instituted such directives, according to the report.

Cranfield interviewed 33 senior business leaders, executive search consultants and other subject experts, the majority of whom were against the imposition of quotas. All made reference to the threat of EU quotas and the U.K.’s preference to adopt the voluntary approach of targets.

Good Business

The report recommends that instead of quotas, companies should be held accountable by reporting on their progress on a regular basis while government and other stakeholders act as enabling forces.

“Gender balance on company boards is good for business,” Vera Jourova, EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, said in an e-mail. “More and more EU member states are taking measures in this area.”

As more countries decide to impose their own quota laws, that could lead to a waning of resistance in other countries such as the U.K., Simon Rice-Birchall, partner at the international corporate law firm Eversheds LLP, said by e-mail.