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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