The number of women being appointed to Britain's boardrooms may have doubled over the past two years, but a third of Britain’s leading companies still have no women on their boards.
The Female FTSE Report 2004, published by Cranfield School of Management, has found that one in five boardroom appointments went to women this year, up from one in 10 two years ago.
The total number of female directorships in the FTSE100 is 110, up from 101 last year, while 17 per cent of new FTSE 100 board appointments have been women this year, up from 13 per cent last year and 10.5 per cent in 2002.
But while the number of boards with more than one female member has risen from 22 to 29 this year, 31 of the FTSE 100 companies are still run by men-only boards.
Centrica, with three women directors, and J. Sainsbury with two, share the number one ranking of the female FTSE 100 companies with the highest percent of women on the board. AstraZeneca comes third with four female directors making up 31 per cent of its board.
Companies with no female directors include Capita, Associated British Foods, Cable & Wireless, Rio Tinto and Allied Domecq.
The report also found that of the new women appointed in 2004, a third already had FTSE experience and incoming non-executive directors are also far more likely than the directors they replace to have public or voluntary sector experience.
Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt welcomed the research but said that UK PLC still had a long way to go.
"“It’s not about putting women on boards for the sake of it – we want companies to promote the best people for the job, but with almost a third of companies without a single woman on the board, my concern is that companies are not drawing from all the available talent,” she said.
Professor Susan Vinnicombe, the report's author, said: “The UK is taking a unique position in the world in the way it is endeavouring to modernise its top 100 boardrooms without resorting to legislation or quota systems. We see Government, chairmen, existing women directors, academics and others working together in innovative ways to create momentum.”
Speaking at the launch of a DTI best practice guide offering recommendations and tools to help companies improve recruitment and performance in the boardroom, Patricia Hewitt also stressed that while the government has a role to play in encouraging good governance, but the main response has to come from directors and investors themselves.
“Our best companies work proactively to recruit from more diverse sources and to improve their boardroom practices," she said.
In October, Cranfield University, consultancy The Change Partnership and PriceWaterhouseCoopers launched a mentoring scheme designed to increase the number of women in the boardroom.
The scheme, which will see the chairmen and chief executives of 20 of the UK’s largest businesses mentoring senior women executives from other companies, has already attracted applications from 19 women.
Digby Jones, Director General of CBI, also threw his weight behind efforts to increase boardroom diverstity.
"It is important that boards, beside having the right skills, reflect their organisations, their customers and the communities they serve as well as possible. That means achieving active, non-tokenist and competent diversity".