U.K.: Representation of Women on Corporate Boards Almost Doubled in Last Four Years

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By Rick Vollmar

April 17—“Significant progress continues to be made with increased gender diversity in the boardrooms of the U.K.’s top companies,” according to a recent press release from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills. The latest in a series of reports from Lord Davies, commissioned in 2011 by Business Secretary Vince Cable, found that female representation on the boards of FTSE 100 companies has nearly doubled in the past four years to 23.5 percent.

“We must celebrate this outstanding achievement and the change in culture that is taking hold at the heart of British business,” Cable said. “The evidence is irrefutable: boards with a healthy female representation outperform their male-dominated rivals. I am confident we will reach our target [of 25 percent female representation] this year, but our work is not complete. British business must keep its eye on the long game, as we strive to achieve gender parity. We have made good progress in the last four years, and if we continue this trend in the next parliament, I would expect to exceed a third of female representation by 2020. We know that’s where the tipping point lies in influencing decision-making. We must also focus on ensuring women are rising fast enough through the pipeline and taking up executive positions. Companies must harness all available talent—diverse senior management pools are vital to securing the future corporate competitiveness of the U.K.”

Keep Up the Pressure

Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan agreed: “To keep on track, we also need to ensure that women are well represented at senior executive level too, making them ready to take up board level positions. In the FTSE 100, the total number of female senior executives has increased from 19.9 to 21 percent which is to be welcomed, but we need to keep up the pressure to see this increase still further. This is not only good for women, but good for business too. Boards which reflect their customers and clients are better able to understand their needs and respond to them.”

And according to Lord Davies himself, “We now have to . . . address the loss of talented, senior women from the executive pipeline. I have never doubted that Britain has extraordinary talent or that there are plenty of credible, experienced women, capable of serving on British boards. FTSE companies are now making real efforts to seek out and unleash the full extent of this talent.”

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/women-on-boards-numbers-almost-doubled-in-last-4-years, Women on Boards 2015 at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/women-on-boards-2015-fourth-annual-review.

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