Most of the UK’s largest listed companies still have boards where women comprise fewer than one-quarter of the directors, suggesting the government’s push for greater diversity has yet to change management culture.
Analysis for the Professional Boards Forum, which seeks to raise the number of women directors, shows that at present fewer than half of FTSE 100 groups had boards in which women made up more than 25% of the members.
In the FTSE 250, only three out of 10 boards met that target. Twenty still had all-male boards.
The target was set in 2011, when a government-commissioned report from Lord Davies stated that FTSE 100 boards should be at least one-quarter female by the end of 2015.
Just five groups accounted for one in 10 of the 269 blue-chip female directors.
Once the target has been met, campaigners say the next stage should be to increase the number of senior women executives, as the 25% representation rate mainly reflects the appointment of nonexecutives rather than the rise of women bosses.
When Alison Brittain becomes head of Whitbread in January, she will be only the sixth current female FTSE 100 CEO. The others are Carolyn McCall at easyJet, Alison Cooper at Imperial Tobacco, Véronique Laury at Kingfisher, Moya Greene at Royal Mail and Liv Garfield at Severn Trent.
Sir Win Bischoff, one of the corporate chairmen who has promoted increased female representation on boards, says the key is raising the number of women on executive committees — the groups just below board level who run large companies.
“The next stage is to persuade CEOs,” he said.
Sir Philip Hampton, chairman of GlaxoSmithKline, agrees that the focus should be on the executive committee, while recognising that a target of 25%-30% female representation will take longer than five years.
“It has always been difficult getting women into top executive positions,” Sir Philip said.
By Alison Smith
©The Financial Times Limited 2015