U.K.: ‘Outstanding Progress’ for Women on Corporate Boards

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By Rick Vollmar

March 10— “Outstanding progress has been made [in raising the participation rate of women on corporate boards] since we launched the Davies Review in 2011 and it is a mark of what has been achieved to see so many recent appointees to FTSE 100 boardrooms here tonight,” Business Secretary Vince Cable will tell 160 women appointed to FTSE 100 boards since 2011 at a celebration event at Lancaster House in London tonight, according to prepared remarks released by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.

Hosted jointly by Cable and Lloyds Banking Group, the event will celebrate the increase to 22.8 percent female representation on the boards of FTSE 100 companies, close to the target of 25 percent set by the Davies commission in 2011. Individual companies such as Old Mutual have boosted their female boardroom representation to as much as 38.5 percent, according to the BIS release, which goes on to say that “the progress made across the FTSE 100 demonstrates the increasing opportunities available to Britain’s top businesswomen.” There are now no all-male boards in the FTSE 100.

‘A Real Change'

“Businesses must continue to keep up the momentum to reach our ambition of having at least a quarter of women making up our top company boards in 2015,” Cable said. “In the last five years, we have seen a real change in culture and the success of our voluntary business-led approach. Diverse management teams are good for business and I want to see even more talented and capable business women appointed to the boards of Britain’s biggest companies.”

According to Lord Davies of Abersoch, whose report was the impetus for the government's current initiative, “the progress seen since I made my recommendations four years ago has been a revelation. It is inspiring to see that the biggest companies in Britain have appointed so many top businesswomen to their boards and I have every reason to expect that the 25 percent target will be reached this year.

“However, we must recognise,” Lord Davies continued, “there is much work to do before we achieve true gender parity and it is vital that companies focus on continued progress, increasing in the number of women appointed as executive directors. The evidence shows that companies with balanced boards are able to be more competitive globally.”

A Strong Pipeline ‘Critical'

“We strongly believe in the importance of providing opportunities for talented women to participate in the leadership of businesses,” Lloyds Banking Group chair Lord Blackwell said, “and have ourselves welcomed three female directors to our board since 2011. In addition, we think it is critical to build a strong talent pipeline so that we have access to the best talent and enable more women to take up executive positions and non-executive director roles.

Lloyds has “a goal to have 40 percent of senior management positions filled by women by 2020,” Lord Blackwell continued, “and have put in place a structure that supports female colleagues to rise up the organization in a way that benefits both them and the business.”

Lord Davies will be publishing his latest Review into Women on Boards March 25, and the Cranfield School of Business Management will release The Female FTSE Report 2015 the same day and make the report available at http://www.som.cranfield.ac.uk/som/ftse.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rick Vollmar at rvollmar@bna.com

The BIS press release is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/vince-cable-celebrates-outstanding-progress-for-women-on-boards.

For more information on British HR law and regulation, see the U.K. primer.