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Report finds more women at board level, but more could be done in civils sector

A report by former trade minister Lord Davies into the gender balance on the boards of British businesses has found that women’s representation on the FTSE 100 has more than doubled to 26% in less than five years.

However in a ranking of the FTSE 250 in terms of gender representation on boards, in terms of the civil engineering sector, only WS Atkins improved on the 25% target set for the FTSE 100 back in 2011. The report said that three of its ten board members were women.

Introducing the report, Lord Davies said: “As we began to gather evidence in the Autumn of 2010 on the low representation of women in FTSE Boards, it was clear that this was to be no ordinary journey. What we didn’t anticipate was the near revolution which has taken place in the boardroom and profound culture change at the heart of British business. And if we are honest, neither were we wholly convinced that business would pick up the baton and the 25% target would be achieved.

“I am therefore delighted to report that women’s representation on the FTSE 100 has more than doubled to 26% in less than five years. This not only exceeds the target set, but importantly progress and business appetite for women’s contribution at the top table, goes from strength to strength.”

Performance Ranking – FTSE 250: How civils companies compare on representation of women at board level

Ranking and company name% Women on boards 2011Women board membersTotal board size% Women on boards Oct 2015
34. WS ATKINS11%31030.0%
53. CARILLION25%2825.0%
53. GALLIFORD TRY33%2825.0%
53. KELLER GROUP14%2825.0%
125. KIER GROUP14%21118.2%
204. BALFOUR BEATTY20%1911.1%

Source: Improving the Gender Balance on British Boards, Lord Davies

The report went on to praise the voluntary business-led approach to increasing the number of women at board level, as opposed to other strategies such as quotas. It said: “And whilst we would all wish for faster progress, the steady and sustained increase in the number of women serving on FTSE boards since 2011, the winning of hearts and minds and over-ridingly supportive stakeholder feedback, all provide clear evidence that the UK’s approach is working.”

However, there have been criticisms that the improvement in female representation is still of a token nature.

Executive search firm Norman Broadbent’s managing director of board practice Krystyna Nowak said: “Lord Davies’ final report is another step on the ladder to resolving the gender inequality in business today. With the FTSE 100 reaching its 25% women on boards objective ahead of target, we expect this new goal of one third of women on FTSE 350 boards, to be met before the end of this decade.

“However, this is a missed opportunity as the recommendations in the report are somewhat disappointing. By only increasing the target for the percentage of women on the PLC board, many companies will just continue the trend of appointing women to  non-executive director positions, manipulating board composition to achieve targets and leaving the executive board to continue to be dominated by men. The onus now lies on CEOs of our country’s top PLCs to promote females to C-level positions and lead the reform of a gender equal executive pipeline. The government now has a chance to address these issues in its equality boosting measures planned for 2016.”







Readers' comments (1)

  • Surely the proportion of women on the board should have a relation to the number of women employed in senior roles. It is unreasonable to expect 50:50 on the board of companies with predominantly male employees. That would definitely be artificial.


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