Cranfield School of Management has today (7 October) published its annual Women to Watch list highlighting the breadth and depth of the female leadership talent pool.

Launched alongside the Female FTSE Board Report, which provides an annual analysis of the progress of women directors on FTSE 350 corporate boards, the Women to Watch 2021 is intended to shine a light on the impressive talent pool of women in business and offer a snapshot of some of those considered potential board members of the future.

The list spotlights 100 leading female professionals who the authors believe are ideally suited for consideration as non-executive directors (NEDs) on the boards of FTSE 350 companies now or in the near future.

Diversity in all its forms

The Women to Watch supplement was introduced by Cranfield University's Gender, Leadership and Inclusion Centre in 2009.

Hilary Sears, Visiting Fellow of Cranfield School of Management and author of the 2021 report, said: "Diversity in all its forms is increasingly on the agenda for forward-thinking businesses, and rightly so. As well as providing appropriate representation for an increasingly diverse workforce, it has been found that more diverse boards make better decisions.

The challenge, though, is how in-demand diverse executives now are: where to find them, how to recruit them, how to retain them? Through this year's Female FTSE Board Report and Women to Watch list, we hope to accelerate companies on their journey to better representation and a truly inclusive workplace."

The Female FTSE Board Report 2021: Inclusion works for everyone

Cranfield University's Female FTSE Board Report, also launched today, reveals that, while the number of women on FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 boards continues to rise (38% and 35% respectively), there remains considerable variance between companies, with the overall figures boosted by the efforts of several leading firms.

Some 21% of FTSE 100 companies and 32% of FTSE 250 companies have yet to meet the Hampton Alexander target of 33% women on boards by 2020, prompting the authors of the report to question whether more forceful measures may be needed to encourage businesses to comply.