The latest figures have been published by The Cranfield School of Management and the results show a pretty woeful picture of latest efforts to improve female representation on company boards. Despite the noises made by government and business regarding the issue of women on boards, the latest figures indicate that not only have the numbers not increased they have slowed.
The School’s research found that while in the first half of the financial year 44% of board level appointments at FTSE 100 firms went to women, just 26% were appointed by the second half of the financial year.
The Cranfield School of Management explained the results were so poor because firms had ‘become complacent about the issue.’
Not only have they become complacent but it also suggests how resistant they are to making any significant change. It is now clear that when the issue first entered the headlines businesses did nothing more than pay lip service in the hope government the media, and politicians would leave them alone and the issue would go away. But thankfully this latest and most up to date research provides us with an insight into how seriously (or not) firms are taking the issue.
As I have advocated previously, quotas for women on boards are necessary if we are to redress the balance in any way. This may not be a permanent measure but it is necessary as an immediate response.
Women still only make up 17% of board posts, well below the 25% target recommended by a government-commissioned review so something needs to be done rather than leaving it to fait alone.
The business secretary, Vince Cable, is delivering a speech today in which he will apply further pressure to leading firms to appoint women to their boards.
He has also admitted today, in his speech, that “the momentum appears to be slowing and there has been much less progress in executive appointments.”
He will write to the 27% of FTSE 250 firms with all-male boards warning them to speed up their appointment of women.
This the very minimum he can do, but what will the impact even be? Cable has said that despite these latest woeful figures he is still not inclined to introduce compulsory targets saying a voluntary led approach is still the best way forward.
The report is a timely reminder that there is a long way to go and if we don’t make any serious intervention then the situation is unlikely to improve in any significant way.