The chances of a woman being appointed to an executive post on one of the UK’s top boards is falling as a study revealed the number of women on FTSE 100 boards had risen to 20.7 percent.
The rise in the number of women on FTSE 100 boards to 20.7 percent, up from 17.3 percent last year, means the UK’s leading companies are closer to the government target of ensuring 25 percent of board posts go to women, according to the 2014 Cranfield Female FTSE board study.
But most of the female appointments on UK boards are into non-executive roles. Women now account for the highest number of non-executive positions ever at 826 but the lowest number of executive positions ever at 291, the findings showed.
Professor Susan Vinnicombe OBE, report author and director of the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders said although she was “encouraged” by the figures, “the issue still remains that women are not being appointed to executive positions, despite there being a wealth of suitable candidates”.
She added: “These figures show that the likelihood of women being appointed to [executive] positions is decreasing.”
Of the 52 women appointed to FTSE 100 boards over the past year – representing 27 percent of all appointments - only five were for executive positions. The remaining 47 were non-executive posts.
“Therefore, 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.”
Despite most chairmen of the FTSE 100 hiring more women, two of the largest companies on the index - Glencore and Antofagasta - still have no women on their boards.
So far, 36 FTSE 100 companies have hit the 25 percent target and 19 companies have between 20 and 25 percent female directors, the findings showed.
In total, 205 women hold 231 directorships on 98 of the UK’s top 100 boards.
Capita and Diageo, whose CFO is Deirdre Mahlan, ranked in joint top position with 44.4 percent female representation on their boards.
Royal Mail, whose CEO is Moya Greene, took third place with 36.4 percent of women on its board.
To boost the numbers of women sitting boards, the report authors recommend a number of strategies including a review the tenure of those currently in non-executive roles. In total, 82 men in non-executive posts on FTSE 100 boards have held their seats for over nine years, which breaches governance rules.
Another strategy suggested was for FTSE companies to increase the number of women at senior executive level.
Minister for Women and Equalities, Maria Miller said: "The workplace was designed by men for men. Women don’t need special treatment they just need a modernised workplace that gives them a level playing field. Supporting women to fulfil their full potential should be a core business issue; for the long term sustainability of our economy.”
At FTSE 250 level, the number of women on boards has risen to 15.6 percent, up from 13.3 percent last year. The FTSE 250 now has 48 all male boards, a fall of well over half on three years ago, the study found.
“The most enduring gap between male and female board seats and appointments remains at the level of executive directorships. In order to close this gap and generate a sustainable talent pool, companies must invest more effort in developing the pipeline of female talent”, said report co-author Dr Elena Doldor, visiting fellow at the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders.
In February 2011 when Lord Davies set the 25 percent target for FTSE 100 boards he warned chairmen that if they failed to achieve the goal, they could face legislation. The UK is for the most part against mandatory quotas for women on boards. However the European Commission is pushing for a 40 percent mandatory quota for women on boards, which if passed would apply to British companies too.
Lord Davies said: “The rate of change that we have seen at the heart of our biggest companies over the last three years has been impressive. The voluntary approach is working and companies have got the message that better balanced boards bring real business benefits.
“We are finally seeing a culture change take place at the heart of British business. 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.”
Earlier this month business secretary Vince Cable promised to back women-only shortlists for headhunters. Cable has asked the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to draft guidance for headhunters.
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