Deloitte report finds firms are beginning to increase number of women on boards – but most are getting less important non-executive roles
Women claimed just one in 10 executive boardroom appointments over the past year despite ministers’ demands that the biggest companies install more women at the top table.
A report by Deloitte found that companies are beginning to increase the number of women on their boards, but warned that most were being appointed to non-executive positions rather than more important executive roles.
Carol Arrowsmith, a partner in executive compensation at Deloitte, said it was “clearly not very good” that nine out 10 of the most important boardroom roles went to men in the year that the government put gender diversity in the boardroom at the top of the agenda.
“This is an improvement on the overall number of executive positions held by women, which stands at around one in every 20, but it is not enough,” she said.
Women fared better in non-executive roles, accounting for 30% of appointments in the FTSE 350.
Lord Davies of Abersoch, who led an inquiry into the male dominance of UK boardrooms, said companies should aim for their boards to be at least 25% female by 2015.
David Cameron, who has refused to rule out introducing a quota system to force companies to appoint more women, has spoken of a target of 30%, which has the backing of many of the UK’s biggest companies..
Deloitte said that despite the “significant increase” in women appointed to FTSE 100 boards over the past year it will take until at least 2016 to reach the 30% target – and that would only be possible if each new woman was replacing a man and if none of the women left.
Eleven FTSE 100 companies still do not have any women on their boards, according to a recent study by the Cranfield School of Management.
Among those with no women at the top table are mining groups Vedanta Resources, Antofagasta, Kazakhmys and Glencore International.
Simon Murray, Glencore’s chairman, has gone on the record saying he is not keen on addressing the commodity giant’s gender imbalance. “Pregnant ladies have nine months off. Do you think that means I’m absolutely desperate to have young women who are about to get married in my company?,” he told the Sunday Telegraph last year.
Women now occupy 16% of FTSE 100 board positions – significantly below Davies’ target of 25% by 2015 – but more than double the figure in 1999.
Drinks giant Diageo has the biggest proportion of female directors at 44%.
Fashion house Burberry is in second place with three female directors on a board of eight, including chief executive Angela Ahrendts and finance director Stacey Cartwright.
The Deloitte report said companies are coming under pressure from shareholders on the issue, with 60% of investors surveyed listing gender diversity as an important element of board composition, compared to 30% of company secretaries.
Rolls Royce appointed its second female director on Monday . Jasmin Staiblin, chief executive of ABB Switzerland, joins Dame Helen Alexander, chair of Rolls’ remuneration committee.
Deloitte said that more than a fifth of FTSE 350 companies still have no active plans to increase the diversity of their boards a year after Lord Davies published his ground-breaking report on women in the boardroom. Davies recommended in February that companies take six months to publish their own targets for bolstering female presence on their boards.