David Prosser: Lord Davies's generosity on women on the board is about to be abused

 

Outlook Let us be charitable and say they are leaving it late. UKSIF, the sustainable investment group, revealed yesterday that it has written to all of the FTSE 350 companies which have yet to explain how they will respond to Lord Davies's report in February on increasing the number of women on the board, the deadline for which is fast approaching. So how many stamps did UKSIF have to buy? More than 250 – and 60-odd of the letters went to blue-chip FTSE 100 companies.

Now, it may be that all the companies still to set out a road map for hitting Lord Davies's targets for women on the board – 25 per cent by 2015, in the case of the FTSE 100's constituents – will do so on time. Chairmen were told to publish their road maps by the end of September, so there is just over a week to go. Somehow, however, one guesses that come next Friday, there will still be a sizeable number of responses outstanding.

What explains this failure to comply with even the easiest part of Lord Davies's instructions? And what does it imply for the chances of companies' actually hitting his targets for gender diversity?

The suspicion has always been that for very many companies, this is a very low-priority issue, and the low response rate appears to confirm that. As for the second question, it seems likely most of those companies which have failed even to map out how they might get to the destinations Lord Davies requires are going to get lost along the way.

The good news is the statistics show more women are now getting directors' positions. Almost a third of FTSE 100 board-level jobs this year have gone to women and an initiative by leading headhunting firms to seek out strong female candidates for senior positions may help that trend to continue.

Still, these appointments have barely moved the yardstick on which companies are to be judged in four years' time: women now account for 13.9 per cent of FTSE 100 board positions, up from 12.5 per cent at the end of last year. The comparable figure for the next 250 companies, by the way, is 8.7 per cent, up from 7.8 per cent.

Lord Davies said in February that this approach – targets rather than mandatory quotas – should be regarded as the last chance for Britain's biggest companies properly to embrace gender diversity. But having been offered four years to get to a relatively modest threshold – in Norway, for example, there is a legal requirement for 40 per cent of board members to be women – companies already appear to be thumbing their noses at the inquiry.

The really stupid thing is that it's obvious these companies are going to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century in the end. For even if Lord Davies does not make good on his threat to push for compulsion if the voluntary approach fails, the European Parliament, moving closer to legislation by the day, will certainly do so.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
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: Web Developer - PHP

£16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Guru Careers: In-House / Internal Recruiter

£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea