More effort is needed to shift the gender balance in FTSE100 boards

October 13th 2016 | Posted by Phil Scott

A continued effort to get more women within board level positions has seen a positive upward drive to 20.7% representation in the past year, bringing Lord Davies’ target in the Cranfield report of 25% females at board level within FTSE100 companies within 2015 within closer reach.

Critics have warned that progress is still too slow however, despite the positive 17.3% increase in female representation in the past year, and a tangible move towards more balanced FTSE100 boards, the facts speak for themselves. Royal Mail, EasyJet, Burberry and Imperial Tobacco are alone in the FTSE100 when it comes to having a female CEO, while Glencore Xstrata and Antofagasta still have all-male boards according to a recent Reuters report.
Part of the problem is due to the lengthy process involved with recruiting board level members, naturally slowing the process down in light of the 2015 deadline and compounding to the pressure to hit the 25% target before the end of next year.

Supporters of the 25 by 2015 drive have stated that change needs to come from within, and it must be sustainable in order to avoid recruiting female board members simply to hit a predefined target. The author of the Cranfield report, Professor Susan Vinnicombe OBE has said: “We currently have the highest number of NED positions ever at 826 and the lowest number of ED positions ever at 291. These figures show that the likelihood of women being appointed to ED positions is decreasing. Therefore, while it is important to meet the 25% target; we need sustainable change that will ensure diversity on our boards in executive positions as well as NED roles.”

Headhunters and executive recruitment firms have also been criticised for a lax approach to recruiting for female board members. It’s a reality that the market as it stands is male dominated, and in order to make a shift towards an equilibrium there needs to be a renewed focus on search and select processes designed to attract the best and most highly qualified candidates from a larger pool than ever before.