Room at the top

Published in Accounting and Business

More women are being appointed to the boards of FTSE companies, but is real change happening fast enough or are companies just paying lip service to diversity? Sally Percy reports

‘Women hold up half the sky,’ goes the Chinese proverb. They also make up half the UK population and half the number of entrants to the accountancy profession globally. But, sadly, they don’t make up half the number of FTSE 100 board directors, or even a quarter. In fact, as the prime minister revealed in September, they hold just 17.3% of FTSE 100 board positions, mostly in a non-executive capacity.

In February 2011, a report by former business minister Lord Davies warned that a lack of gender diversity at the most senior level was detrimental to UK companies. At the time, women made up just 12.5% of directors on FTSE 100 boards with 18 FTSE 100 companies and, perhaps even more worryingly, nearly 50% of FTSE 250 companies, having no female directors at all. He recommended that FTSE 100 companies should aim for a minimum of 25% female board representation by 2015. And although he didn’t advise quotas, he said that the government must ‘reserve the right to introduce more prescriptive alternatives’ should the business-led approach not result in significant change.

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