The government has been warned it will miss its target of 25% female representation on boards of FTSE 100 companies by next year unless there is a boardroom hiring drive.
Official figures released on Wednesday show that while the appointment of women to Britain’s top boardrooms is rising, progress is too slow to achieve the target set by Lord Davies of Abersoch in 2011.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, warned: “While progress is undoubtedly being made, the pace of change is too slow. And there are still companies with no female directors on their boards – at this rate it’ll be decades before we see a 50/50 gender split at the top of British business.”
O’Grady’s comments came as Vince Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said women now account for 20.7% of board positions in the FTSE 100 – up from 12.5% in 2011 and 17.3% in April 2013.
If the rate of last year’s rise in the number of female directors was repeated this year, it would leave the UK shy of Davies’s 25% target in 12 months’ time.
However, Cable expressed confidence that the target would be met, saying: “We need fewer than 50 new women appointments to FTSE 100 boards … in the next year.”
He added: “We will only achieve this if there is a renewed, concentrated effort by chairs and chief executives to continue to change the make up of management at their top table.”
BIS also hailed high-profile female executive appointments in the City over the past 12 months, including the recruitment of Inga Beale, Lloyd’s of London’s first female chief executive in its 325-year history.
The department added that women account for 33% of all board appointments in 2013/14, while there remain two all-male boards – mining groups Glencore Xstrata and Antofagasta.
The sluggish rate of increase in the rate of female directors in UK companies drew renewed criticism of how businesses operate. Ann Francke, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, added: “The real issue we need to confront is the lack of women in the talent pipeline. Too many talented women opt out before they fulfil their potential, because business culture puts them off – so we see, for example, from our data that only half as many men as women aim to reach chief executive. That’s hardly any wonder when we still don’t have enough female role models at the top of British businesses.”
The performance by FTSE 250 companies lags behind the FTSE 100 list. According to BIS, there are 48 all-male boards on the list and female representation in boardrooms is running at 15.6%.
The BIS figures came as it was announced that more than 100 listed German companies will be required to allocate 30% of seats on their non-executive boards to women under planned new laws that were dismissed by critics as tokenism.
Although Europe’s biggest economy has a female leader in chancellor Angela Merkel, women are under-represented in business life.
Among the 30 largest companies on Germany’s blue-chip DAX index, women occupied about 22% of supervisory board seats and about 6% of executive board seats at the end of last year, according to the DIW economic thinktank.
The two FTSE 100 companies with all-male boards Glencore Xstrata, Antofagasta
The 48 companies on the FTSE 250 list with all-male boards 3i Infrastructure; Essar Energy; Kentz Corp; 888 Holdings; Ferrexpo; Londonmetric Property; Al Noor Hospitals Group; FirstGroup; Merchants Trust; Bank of Georgia Holdings; Fisher (James) & Sons; Merlin Entertainments; BH Global; Genus; Paypoint; BH Macro; Hansteen Holdings; Perpetual Income & Growth Investment Trust; Blackrock World Mining Trust; HellermannTyton Group; Personal Assets Trust; Bluecrest Allblue Fund; Herald Investment Trust; Petra Diamonds; Bovis Homes Group; Hikma Pharmaceuticals; Restaurant Group; Caledonia Investments; Hunting; Riverstone Energy; Centamin; IG Group Holdings; Scottish Investment Trust; City of London Investment Trust; Imagination Technologies Group; Synthomer; Daejan Holdings; IP Group; Telecom Plus; Domino Printing Sciences; JD Sports Fashion; Templeton Emerging Markets Investment Trust; Enterprise Inns; John Laing Infrastructure Fund; Vedanta Resources; Entertainment One: Kcom Group; Xaar.