Lord Davies and board diversity: what do the figures say?

The deadline laid down by Lord Davies of Abersoch’s panel for FTSE 250 companies to set out targets for achieving greater board diversity has just passed. The press release reporting on what has been achieved skirts round the central question of how many companies have yet to report targets, but it is, unsurprisingly, strong on the progress that has been made.

There is certainly some good news. Women now comprise nearly 14 per cent of FTSE 100 directors, up from 12.5 per cent in February last year, and 23 per cent of board appointments since March this year have been women. However, women still make up just 8.8 per cent of FTSE 250 board directors (up a percentage point since March).

Abstracting from the Chartered Management Institute survey discussed here recently, we can see that some sectors have significantly higher proportions of women directors than others, and pay parity is much closer when that is the case.

I asked Peninah Thomson, director of the FTSE 100 Cross-Company Mentoring Programme, whether there has been an increase in the pace at which women have joined the boards of companies where these changes have been taking place.

“I could not say for sure,” she says. “What I have noticed in monitoring companies’ statements in AGMs and annual reports is that those that choose to make statements in this area are doing so on the back of an already good track record.

“The usual suspects are improving diversity, and they’re already renowned for doing it. There’s an amazing silence from the others. The question is why.”

Only when more granular reporting uncovers progress made by individual companies will we begin to see whether the UK’s decision to go down the persuasion-not-coercion route has been effective.


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About our bloggers

Liz Bolshaw

Liz Bolshaw is a business journalist and editor. She has been a successful book publisher, online editor, magazine editor and publisher.

She was launch editor of the Europe-wide online community Entrepreneur Country, has published magazines for PwC, 3i, dunhill and Bafta, and launched The Sharp Edge, a magazine for and about entrepreneurs, with Duncan Bannatyne. She is a regular contributor to Thomson Reuters’ Venture Capital Journal.

Her last project for the Financial Times was as editor of the paper’s Business Education magazine.

Rebecca Knight

Rebecca Knight is a freelance journalist based in Boston. She writes regularly for the FT on business education, entrepreneurship, and management.

Andrew Hill

Andrew Hill is an associate editor and the management editor of the FT. He was City editor of the FT and editor of the daily Lombard column on British business and finance from September 2006 to December 2010.

He was the FT’s financial editor from June 2005 to September 2006, with overall responsibility for coverage of companies and markets. Before becoming financial editor, he was the FT’s comment & analysis editor, in charge of the paper’s opinion and features pages.

From 1999 to 2003, he was the FT’s New York bureau chief. He joined the FT in 1988 and has also worked as foreign news editor, UK companies reporter and correspondent in Brussels and Milan.

Pino Bethencourt

Pino Bethencourt is a professor and leadership expert at IE Business School in Madrid. She is also an author and executive coach.

Lynda Gratton

Lynda Gratton is professor of management practice at London Business School.

Linda Tarr-Whelan

Linda Tarr-Whelan, former ambassador to the UN commission on the status of women, is a Demos distinguished senior fellow.