Two key reports on the issue - one by Cranfield School of Management in Bedfordshire – show there has been progress on the issue but it may not be happening fast enough.
Lord Davies has published the first annual progress report on his ground-breaking review of Women on Boards. His primary recommendation proposed that FTSE 350 boards should aim for a minimum of 25 per cent female representation by 2015.
The latest Female FTSE (Financial Times and the London Stock Exchange) report from Cranfield School of Management reported the number of women on the top boards of FTSE 100 companies in the UK has risen from 12.5 per cent last March to a 15.6 per cent from the 190 appointments made in the FTSE 100 boards, 47 out new appointments were women.
Lord Davies said: “I believe that we are finally seeing a culture change taking place right at the very heart of British business in relation to how women are seen within the workforce.
“Some excellent work has taken place and I want to take this opportunity to thank the many chairmen, chief executive officers, business organisations, training providers, networks, journalists and individual business men and women whose commitment to this issue remains unstinting.
“However, I must also emphasise that efforts need to be ramped up and the speed of change accelerated if we’re to avoid government interference.”
And Liz Field, chief executive of the Financial Skills Partnership said action is also needed to bring more women into lower levels of management.
She said: “While the increase in top board membership is clearly welcome, we believe that a lot more work could be done to help adjust the gender balance throughout company hierarchies, in particular at the level immediately below the one currently reported on.
“Recent research indicates that female participation at this level is actually declining rather than rising, a trend that needs to reversed if we are to ensure a continuous pipeline of female talent. Companies would do well to follow in the footsteps of the most progressive amongst them which - besides introducing better diversity monitoring and tailored development and mentoring programmes for women - are also trying to tackle the most deep-seated causes such as unconscious bias.”
Katja Hall, policy director of bosses’ organisation the CBI said: “The report rightly highlights that this is not just about the increase in numbers, it is also about a change in approach, and a commitment to drive diversity at the top and among future leaders. There is still a long way to go but we are now seeing real progress for the first time in many years.
“The government must continue to promote the voluntary approach that is starting to bear fruit and resist EU pressure for counter-productive quotas.”