The Government is looking to increase the pressure on businesses to include more women on their boards by telling them “doing nothing is not an option”.
According to the Government, the number of Britain’s largest publicly quoted companies with all-male boards has fallen from 21 to seven in the past two-and-a-half years, with Mr Cable saying that “real progress” had been made, however he states that he is determined to see “further actions” in the next two years.
In his letter to the seven firms, he said:
“My vision by 2015 is that Britain will not have a single FTSE 100 board without a significant female presence.
“This is not about equality; this is about good governance and good business.”
Mr Cable added:
“The international evidence supports this – diverse boards are better boards benefiting from fresh perspectives, opinions and new ideas which ultimately serve the company’s long-term interests.”
The seven companies, which mainly operate in the mining and extractive sectors, faced “unique challenges” in attracting more women since their line of work often involved regular travel and projects in “remote areas of the world”, according to Cable.
However, he added:
“Successful modern companies learn to adapt and survive and doing nothing is not an option anymore.”
In response to Vince Cable delivering the letters, Fiona Hotston Moore, a Senior Partner at City accountancy firm Reeves, and a campaigner for legal quotas, said:
“Vince Cable is saying the right things, but words are not enough, and to think he will get a 50-fold increase in the number of women on FTSE 100 boards by 2015 without action is ludicrous and naive.
“Politicians cannot have their cake and eat it on this issue. Commending gender diversity whilst doing nothing to ensure it happens is just so much hot air.
“There is no evidence that FTSE 100 companies are yet taking the issue of women in the boardroom seriously, despite plenty from countries which have established quotas that businesses flourish as a result.”
She went onto say:
“In fact, the number of women in executive roles in FTSE 100 companies is just 6.6%, a rise of just over 1% since the report commissioned by the Government from Lord Davies 20 months ago.”
Miss Hotston Moore concluded:
“Bias, both conscious and unconscious, remains in the boardroom and in recruitment firms. Quotas are not discriminatory – they correct existing discrimination so allowing strong women candidates to get a fair crack at top appointments. Diverse boards will increase shareholder value and help build a stronger economy.”