We have now reached 2015, the year for which Lord Davies set a target to achieve 25% of women serving on the boards of FTSE 100 companies. Since the publication of the Davies Review in 2011, we have made huge strides in gender diversity in our top companies. We have almost doubled women’s representation and ended all-male boards in the FTSE 100.
This is a credit to the leadership and determination of so many senior business leaders, keen to address the gender gap on their boards and within their organizations. But we in government have also played our part by leading networking events between chairmen and female board candidates to showcase the breadth of talent. We have supported the executive search firms and organizations focused on the development of women, as they take bold action to address the gender imbalance. And we have repeatedly met those businesses who were lagging behind and praised those who were leading the pack.
With women’s representation at 23.5% in the FTSE 100, we are so very close to the 2015 target. We only need 17 more women on the boards of the FTSE 100 companies to reach our target. If the appointment rate of one woman to every two men appointed is sustained, Cranfield University and the Davies Steering Group expect the 25% target to be met before the end of this year. This is not gender parity, but it is a major milestone in a much longer journey.
The FTSE 250 has also made great progress, more than doubling the percentage of women on their boards since 2011, from 7.8% to 18%. The number of all-male boards in the FTSE 250 has also dropped from 151 in 2011 to 23 today. This is still 23 too many, albeit a huge achievement in a relatively short space of time.
Cranfield’s ‘100 Women to Watch 2015’ report shows the extraordinary field of strong female candidates poised for FTSE board positions, with many others reaching senior levels just below the boardroom. We have been delighted to see many new initiatives launched this year, all aimed at showcasing talented, aspiring women and connecting them to new career opportunities.
Last year was a tremendous year for action in the executive pipeline with many companies stepping up and setting targets to measure the progress of women across our top performing companies. The tide is turning as we see senior women in every sector and across all industries, breaking through the barriers to succeed at the highest levels. We are seeing more and more male leaders championing this agenda, putting measures in place to identify talent and nurture it. However, we need many more champions, to truly deploy the widest search criteria, reach across all sectors and tap into yet unexplored talent pools, such as academia and the public sector.
Diversity thrives where great leadership, vision and transparency are plentiful. Few leaders today remain to be convinced that the input of a diverse workforce challenges conventional thinking, better reflects the customer base and leads to improved output and innovation.
We need to deliver fully upon the initial target of 25% this year, if we are to enhance the UK’s reputation for responsible governance, competitiveness and an ability to attract talented men and women in the global marketplace. We are keen to show the rest of the world we can do this on our own without quotas and in doing so, we will achieve long term sustainable change in the boardroom and wider workplace.
Everyone deserves to achieve their full career potential. Everyone deserves to participate equally in growing our future economy.