U.K.: Women-on-Boards Initiative Exceeds Target

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By Ali Qassim

Nov. 4—With more than a quarter of all board seats at Britain’s top 100 listed companies held by women–higher than the 2015 target–the U.K.’s largest firms should now aim for 33 percent by 2020, according to the government-commissioned report Women on Boards: 5 Year Summary, released Oct. 29.

The latest data show that women account for 26.1 percent of board positions in the top 100 listed firms, higher than the initial 25 percent goal set by the report’s author Lord Mervyn Davies in 2011. The U.K. now stands in sixth place internationally in the representation of women on corporate boards, and the number of all-male boards has fallen from 152 in 2011 to none in the FTSE 100 and only 15 in the FTSE 250.

The U.K. achieved this transformation through a voluntary code of conduct instead of through legislative quota regimes such as those introduced by most of the other top-ranked countries.

Raise Target to a Third by 2020

One of the report’s key recommendations was to increase within the next five years the voluntary target for women’s representation on Boards of FTSE 350 companies to a minimum of 33 percent.

“The UK's voluntary approach is working, so it's right that this report sets business a stretching new voluntary target,” Matthew Fell, interim chief policy director of the Confederation of British Industry, said in an Oct. 29 statement.

The report suggested businesses focus on increasing the number of women on companies’ executive committees and in senior-leadership positions.

“Less than one in 10 executive directorships in the FTSE 100 are held by women,” Institute of Directors Chairwoman Lady Barbara Judge said in an Oct. 29 statement, adding that it is vital not to “lose focus on getting women into executive and decision-making roles, as well as non-executive ones.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ali Qassim in London at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at rvollmar@bna.com

The Davies report is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/471951/BIS-15-585-women-on-boards-davies-review-5-year-summary-october-2015.pdf.

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

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