• Diageo leads this year’s rankings with 45.5% women on their boards
  • Percentage of women on FTSE 100 boards has increased to 26% but the rate of progress has slowed since the Davies report
  • Progress among executive ranks and in the executive pipeline remains very slow, with women holding only 19.4% roles on Executive Committees of FTSE 100 companies.

This year’s Female FTSE Report, by academics at Cranfield School of Management, City University London and Queen Mary University London, shows that the overall percentage of women on FTSE boards has increased compared to March 2015. Yet while the percentage of women on FTSE 100 boards has increased to 26% and to 20.4% on the FTSE 250 boards this year, the rate of progress has slowed since the Davies closing report in October 2015. As a result board turnover rates have decreased and the percentage of new appointments going to women over the past six months is only 24.7%, the lowest since September 2011.

This is short of the increase required to meet the 33% board target by 2020 as set out in the Davies report, requiring FTSE 350 board to have 27% by the end of 2016. In addition to Unilever in the FTSE 100, five FTSE 250 companies also have 50% women on their boards (Electra Private Equity, Grainger, Halfords Group, Renewable Infrastructure Group, and Woodford Patient Capital Trust). So far, 44 companies in the FTSE 100 and 58 FTSE 250 companies have reached at least 27% women on their boards. The 33% target could be achieved, but only if the pace of change increases again.

Cranfield School of Management’s Professor Susan Vinnicombe, CBE, said: “The focus on boards must be preserved as the pace of change has not kept up after the Davies closing report. In order to hit the 33% board target by 2020, chairmen and search consultants must ensure the board appointment process remains robust, transparent and gender-inclusive.”

Progress among executive ranks and in the executive pipeline remains very slow. Female executive directorships stand at 9.7% in the FTSE 100 and 5.6% in the FTSE 250. This shortage of women in top senior roles may make it difficult to reach the new target of 33% women on boards by 2020. In this year’s report we found that women overall hold 19.4% of FTSE 100 Executive Committee roles, and only 10% of operational and C-suite ones. The pipeline of female talent needs to be addressed with urgency and will form the basis of work of the new committee in this area, under the stewardship of Sir Philip Hampton and Dame Helen Alexander.

However, data on Executive Committees are not always readily available. The authors stress the need for more robustness and transparency in reporting gender composition at Executive Committee level and below, with companies encouraged to monitor and report gender balance across all seniority levels. The report also shows how metrics and targets are effective tools to create a disciplined approach to gender balance and cultural change in organisations. It lays out some principles of target setting and provides case studies of organisations that use voluntary gender targets.

Dr Ruth Sealy from City University London, who co-authored the report, said: "For change to be sustainable, we must focus on the pipeline and ensure that women can progress through senior management ranks. Only 19.4% of FTSE 100 Executive Committee members are women, and women hold only 10% of C-suite and operational roles on these committees.”

Co-author Dr Elena Doldor, from Queen Mary University London, added: “Companies must do more to support women's careers below board level. Our research shows that rigorous gender metrics and voluntary targets are effective tools that companies can use to redress their gender balance and achieve cultural change."

About Cranfield University

Cranfield is an exclusively postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management. 

Cranfield School of Management

Cranfield has been a world leader in management education and research for 50 years, helping individuals and organisations learn and succeed by transforming knowledge into action. We are dedicated to creating responsible management thinking, improving business performance and inspiring the next generation of business leaders. We work to change the lives of our students and executives by encouraging innovation and creative thinking, as well as the drive to succeed and make a real impact on their organisations.

Organisations as diverse as Jaguar Land Rover, BAE Systems, Royal Dutch Shell, L’Oréal, UNICEF and the African Development Bank have benefited from our work, which ranges from management research projects, through staff talent management development on our MBA courses, to customised executive programmes.

Cranfield is one of an elite group of Schools worldwide to hold the triple accreditation of: AACSB International (the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business), EQUIS (European Quality Improvement System) and AMBA (the Association of MBAs).

It is in the Top 10 International Business Schools in the Forbes’ ranking.

Our customised executive education programmes are ranked 10th in the world, according to the latest Financial Times survey, and are best in the world for international reach. Over 15,000 people come to Cranfield each year to benefit from our executive and professional development programmes.