Women on boards: progress made but more to do

Women on boards: progress made but more to do


Author: Katy Meves

The drive to increase female participation on the Boards of the UK's largest companies is still under the spotlight as a further report is published.

In February 2011, Lord Davies published his original report looking at female representation on the boards of directors of Britain's biggest companies. On 10 April 2013, his second annual progress report on women on boards was published.

The headline from this report is, "good progress" has been made in the last two years, but there is still some way to go and the momentum needs to be maintained.

As at 1 March 2013, women accounted for 17.3% of FTSE 100 and 13.2% of FTSE 250 board positions. This is an increase from 12.5% and 7.8% respectively in February 2011.

Lord Davies acknowledged that ensuring there are sufficient numbers of talented women in the "executive pipeline" remains a difficult challenge.

In his progress report he made various further recommends, including that:

  • FTSE 350 Chairmen review their targets for 2015, and those companies that have not yet set targets are encouraged to do so.
  • FTSE 250 companies also set targets for the number of women they aim to have on their boards in 2015, with a minimum 25% target to be aimed for.
  • FTSE 350 Chief Executives set out the percentage of women they aim to have on their Executive Committees and at Senior Management levels within their organisation in 2015. This should be set out by the end of September 2013.
  • Executive committee members be released to serve on the boards of other companies as part of the overall executive development plan.
  • Companies conduct a pilot for advertising director opportunities to test the benefits and pitfalls of advertising.


Large companies need to develop a comprehensive approach to diversity; it is not just women who are under-represented at Board level. However, while the regulatory focus is on female representation, companies (even those below FTSE 250 level) need to take active steps to improve opportunities for, and retention of, women at senior levels. Without continuing and visible improvements in the numbers of women directors in the coming years the threat of more onerous legislative intervention from the European Union remains real.

Further reading

www.gov.uk: Women-on-boards-2013.pdf