Four years after UK PLC was set a target for 25% female board representation by 2015, the latest figures show that achieving that target is tantalisingly close.
The position then
In 2011, just 12.5% of FTSE 100 board appointments and 7.8% of FTSE 250 appointments, were women. 152 FTSE 350 companies had all-male boards.
The position now
According to the Davies Review Annual Report 2015 female representation on FTSE 100 companies has increased to 23.5% with over 40 FTSE 100 companies already meeting the voluntary target of 25% female board representation. Fewer than 20 women need to be appointed for all FTSE 100 companies to achieve that target. The figures for the FTSE 250 have more than doubled since 2011 with women now holding 18% of all board appointments amongst those companies.
The FTSE 100 no longer has any all-male boards although 23 still remain within the FTSE 250 but this is down from 131 in 2011.
As the latest report notes, the significant improvement over the last four years has been achieved on a voluntary basis, without the need for regulation or compulsory quotas and it is clear that even the writer of the report is somewhat surprised by the speed of change revealed by the figures.
Areas for improvement
One potential area for concern highlighted by the report is that women still account for a worryingly small number of executive directorships – just 8.4% or 24 women – with the majority of the new appointments since 2011 being in non-executive roles. Only 3% of FTSE 100 Chairs are female and only 5% of Chief Executives – figures which remain almost unchanged since 2011.
The figures also reveal that the rate of change is slowing down: in 2013/14 the rate of appointment for female directors amongst FTSE 250 companies was 31.1% but for 2014/15 this had fallen to 23.9%.
Priorities for the year ahead
The report identifies three key strategic priorities for the year ahead to support British businesses in achieving the 25% target by the end of 2015. These are:
- Motivating FTSE 350 companies by influencing their chairmen and profiling talented women capable of filling board positions
- Raising the bar with key stakeholders by ensuring executive search firms and investors remain engaged with the initiative
- Leveraging support and indirect opportunities with like-minded organisations such as the 30% Club and the “25 for 2025” campaign which aims to have 25 female Chief Executives amongst the FTSE 100 by 2025.
The report concludes that, with the continuing threat of EU legislation in the background, the dramatic changes shown in the last four years demonstrate that increased gender diversity can be achieved through a voluntary, business led approach without the need for mandatory quotas.