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Business & Finance Series: Announcements

More women now on boards at UK’s top companies

Annual report finds significant progress is being made towards Lords target
by Ed Grover (Senior Communications Officer)

Portrait of Ruth SealyBritain’s top companies could be approaching a “tipping point” in improving gender equality with boardroom jobs, according to a City University London academic who helped produce a high-profile report on the issue.

Dr Ruth Sealy, who co-authored the 2015 Cranfield Female FTSE Board Report, now hopes the nation can become a world leader in creating opportunities for women in business.

The study confirms that FTSE 100 firms are set to meet a target for a quarter of their boardroom positions to be held by women at the end of 2015 – double the figure recorded in 2011.

Dr Sealy, a Senior Lecturer in Organisational Psychology at City, was joined at the launch of the report by Business Secretary Dr Vince Cable, who called the process a “revolution”.

The academic described the results of a qualitative study involving chairmen, CEOs and senior directors, explaining some participants had suggested business could be approaching a “shift in culture”.

“In the last four or five years, we really have seen a mind-set shift,” she said. “But we need to continue to have a centre of energy, a focus, that pushes this forward, because as one of our participants said, the forces of inertia are great.

“A number of the participants were really quite positive about the fact that maybe we really are at a tipping point… It needs to emerge for British business and maybe we’re starting to see it happen.”

Addressing the business leaders present, she added: “We would urge to you to step up to the challenge, to continue this change process and help the UK become a global leader in optimising the best talent in our workforce, whatever its gender.”

The report, which has been produced in each of the past five years, reveals 23.5 per cent of FTSE 100 boards are now female – up from 20.7 per cent in 2014. There are now 263 women holding directorships across the FTSE 100.

The percentage of non-executive directors has increased to 28.5 per cent, while women in executive directorships has reached an all-time high of 8.6 per cent. Each company has at least one woman on its board and only 17 more female appointments are needed across the FTSE 100 for the firms to reach the target set by the Lord Davies Women on Boards review.

The percentage of women directors on FTSE 250 boards has also risen to 18 per cent, with 65 FTSE 250 companies having met the 25 per cent target. However, it is not all good news for the FTSE 250, as 23 still have no women on their boards and the percentage of women holding executive directorships has fallen to 4.6 per cent.

The report, from the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders at Cranfield School of Management, was co-authored by experts from a number of institutions including Professor Susan Vinnicombe CBE, Dr Elena Doldor, Dr Ruth Sealy, Dr Patricia Pryce and Caroline Turner.

The launch event took place on Wednesday 25th March at the headquarters of Barclays in London.

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