A report released earlier this month by the Professional Boards Forum says that one in four of the FTSE 100 companies has a board on which at least 25% of the directors are women. In six of the businesses, more than 30% of the board members are female.

In recent months, 44% of new board appointments have been women and they now hold 16.7% of directorships in FTSE 100 companies. The UK now has only eight FTSE 100 boards where there is no female representation.

However, when we look at the FTSE 250 companies, 98 still have all-male boards and the overall percentage of women directors is just 10.9%.

Roger Carr, the chairman of energy company Centrica, says he is strongly in favour of gender diversity. His FTSE 100 multinational company has three women on the 12-member board.

“Ultimately, it makes the business better,” Mr Carr said. “That’s the reason you should do it, not because it’s politically correct or indeed encouraged. It’s because boards are healthier, better places for a mixed-gender balance.”

Are we really moving in the right direction quickly enough? The British government wants to see women holding 25% of board positions in the largest companies by 2015 and it does sound as if progress is being made towards achieving that target. But things aren’t looking so promising among the FTSE 250 group.

Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, the chief executive of consulting firm 20-first, believes the next challenge is for organisations to help the women they already employ develop their executive talents and this could provide interesting opportunities for HR professionals.

What measures can HR departments implement to break down gender barriers and how should they set about preparing their existing female talent for executive roles?


About Maggie Berry