The target for the number of women in British boardrooms is being lifted after the UK’s top companies managed to beat the earlier threshold.
A new report says FTSE 100 companies have met their earlier 25% milestone, achieving a 26.1% ratio, and this should now be replaced by a new target of 33% of women board members at FTSE 350 firms by 2020.
Former Trade minister Lord Davies says FTSE 100 boards have steadily increased the quota of women since 2011 when they made up just 12.5% of director appointments.
He is believed to be against the introduction of legally enforced quotas. However, achieving the 25% target in four years has been welcomed by business groups who now want it to apply to other roles and to be extended to other groups.
Lady Barbara Judge, chairman of the Institute of Directors, said: “It is excellent to see British business has powered through the 25% target set by Lord Davies in 2011. The government has the full support of the business community, which wholeheartedly shares the drive to increase the number of women at the top of corporate Britain and is acutely aware of the importance of having diverse boardrooms.
“The success in increasing the number of women in boards has laid the groundwork for the next challenges – ethnicity, age and social background.
“We expect companies to embrace the new 33% target Lord Davies has set with the same enthusiasm. This is a new challenge which once again shows the importance of focusing on the executive level. Less than one in ten executive directorships in the FTSE 100 are held by women, so we must not lose focus on getting women into executive and decision-making roles, as well as non-executive ones.
“To keep up the pace of progress, headhunters and recruiters have a big responsibility to make sure they are looking at candidates from as wide a pool as possible. Employers must make sure they are supporting women throughout their careers, particularly around issues like childcare. Women that make it to the top must also help others follow in their footsteps, by acting as role models and mentors.”
CBI interim chief policy director Matthew Fell, said: “Lord Davies’ latest report shows that businesses understand the value of harnessing all available talent. The UK’s voluntary approach is working, so it’s right that this report sets business a stretching new voluntary target.
“Businesses must now keep up the momentum by continuing to work on building the talent pipeline, increasing the representation of women in executive roles and narrowing the gender pay gap.
“UK companies want to continue leading on this agenda, but the Government can do more to help by extending free childcare, promoting the benefits of flexible working and tackling occupational stereotypes in schools.”
Sharron Gunn, commercial executive director at the accountants’ body ICAEW, said the government should build on the achievement and set targets for females in executive roles.
“FTSE companies have come a long way, but you can’t just evaluate success or failure on how many women are recruited into board positions. I urge the government to be ambitious and set a target for more women in executive posts. We must look again at how businesses develop their pipeline of female leaders.
“Businesses need to measure the success of their leaders by how well they support diversity and inclusion. This goes beyond women. They must reflect how they create work environments that inspire talented people, whether male or female and from whatever background, to become business leaders.”