Why aren't they on the board? For all those companies that say they can't find suitable female candidates, Cranfield has drawn up a list of '100 Women to Watch'

 

"We tried really hard," says Mr Balding-Grey-Haired- Chairman, as he's asked to justify the appointment of another white, balding grey-haired chief executive to his firm, "but there just weren't suitably qualified women out there."

That's the claim Cranfield School of Management hopes to quash with the publication of its "100 Women to Watch" list. These highly qualified and experienced candidates span industries from banking to healthcare, engineering to aviation, and provide, Cranfield says, a wealth of "talent for chairmen and recruiters looking to breathe new life into the boards of the UK's leading companies".

It comes a telling time. Recent Cranfield research revealed that firms still show little interest in candidates who have worked in less traditional avenues – on charity boards or NHS trusts, for example – rather than big-name corporates.

As Professor Susan Vinnicombe, a Cranfield director, puts it: "We get very irritated when search companies tell us that there are not enough women available. The women who have made it on to our watch lists completely dispel that myth."

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, is also taking action. This week he launched a review into how headhunters pick candidates for executive positions. Mr Cable wants Charlotte Sweeney, a former head of diversity at Nomura, to find out whether the executive search industry is sticking to the voluntary code of conduct agreed in 2011 as part of Lord Davies's review into women on boards.

That review set a target of ensuring a quarter of board members are female by 2015, initially at FTSE 100 firms. At first there was a flurry of female appointments, but progress has slowed. This spring Lord Davies reported that 17.3 per cent of FTSE 100 and 13.2 per cent of FTSE 250 board directors were women. But only 12 per cent of all the directors appointed in the two months to May were women, down from the 50 per cent rate seen a year ago, according to figures from the Professional Boards Forum.

The glass ceiling hasn't so much collapsed this year, as been left largely untroubled, and this week Equalities Minister Jo Swinson warned that moves to get more women on to leading company boards were "slowing to a worrying pace". Concerns is growing that too many companies will miss that 25 per cent target.

Appointments including Liv Garfield at Tesco and Diane de Saint Victor at Barclays mean the proportion of women on boards has inched up since Lord Davies's last progress update (now 18.7 per cent for the FTSE 100 and 14.8 per cent for the FTSE 250). But only three FTSE 100 chief executives are women: Carolyn McCall at EasyJet, Angela Ahrendts at Burberry and Imperial Tobacco's Alison Cooper.

And six of Britain's 100 biggest companies, including Antofagasta and Glencore Xstrata, still have exclusively male boards. Tony Hayward, interim chairman at Glencore, still has a full head of black locks. But the rest of the board is indeed made up of white,balding, grey-haired executives.

On the power list

1. Ann Cairns

In her first job, working on the rigs in the North Sea, Ann Cairns sported long blonde hair. "But I had that cut off very quickly," she admits. "I was definitely one of the lads." The maths graduate moved into banking, and spent 15 years at Citigroup, ultimately running its transaction banking. She joined MasterCard in 2011 and is now number two at the finance giant. "I get many more calls with offers from European boards, places like Holland, and France, because they have targets and quotas."

2. Natalie Ceeney

Natalie Ceeney has been tackling bank complaints and running a £200m-budget since 2010. The tweeting chief executive of the Financial Ombudsman Service began her career at the NHS, as a manager at Northwick Park Hospital. She then went on to a management role at Great Ormond Street Hospital, was later appointed Chief Executive of the National Archives. She has a first class degree from Newnham College, Cambridge.

 

3. Vivian Hunt

Harvard graduate Vivian Hunt, head of pharmaceuticals for Europe, the Middle East and Asia at McKinsey, has dual British-American citizenship; she was a healthcare project director in New York City, and volunteered in Senegal for the US Peace Corps. She also serves on the board of charities, including Action on Addiction.

4. Kate Lampard

When the Government cast about for someone to oversee its investigation into Sir Jimmy Savile, it was former barrister Kate Lampard who was picked to "ensure rigour and consistency". After a career in law, specialising in insolvency, company law and property, and roles chairing NHS organisations, she was also formerly deputy chair of the Financial Ombudsman Service. She is currently vice-chair of NHS South England.

5. Veronique Arnoldi-Dargue

Veronique Arnoldi-Dargue graduated with a master's in nuclear physics from the University of Paris, took on the predominantly male world of insurance, and focuses within that on technology. She joined Aviva in 2008 and then became chief technology officer at Aviva Investors. She transformed its systems after Norwich Union rebranded, and has done the same at Centrica, Prudential and Mars; last year she took a sabbatical which she is spending working as a life coach.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Digital Optimisation Executive - Marketing

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's fastest growing, multi...

Recruitment Genius: Financial Reporting Manager

£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...

Recruitment Genius: Payments Operations Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They win lots of awards for the...

Recruitment Genius: Telephone Debt Negotiator

£13500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This nationwide enforcement com...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific