David Prosser: There are still far too few women on the board to justify a Downing Street party

 

Outlook David Cameron does not have much to celebrate just now so maybe we should forgive him the bash he will host at Downing Street today for women in business. Party poopers, however, will say it is premature for the Prime Minister to crow about the improvement there has been in the representation of women at the highest ranks of business since the report published for the Government by Lord Davies on boardroom diversity earlier this year.

They will be right. For while the Cranfield School of Management, the authority on women in the boardroom, will announce today there has been a jump in the number of women directors, we remain miles away from achieving the level of diversity for which Lord Davies is aiming. And his modest instructions have been ignored by a large number of businesses.

Lord Davies' target is for women to account for 25 per cent of all FTSE 100 directors by 2015, compared to 14 per cent today. In that context, the Association of British Insurers' statistics, that 23 per cent of new board appointments in 2011 have been women, is still disappointing, even if it represents a bigimprovement on previous years.

Even more disappointing is the fact that so many companies have just ignored Lord Davies' call for them to say publicly, within six months, how they would work towards his targets. That deadline expired at the end of last month – with only a fifth of FTSE 100 companies having complied. The figures for the next 250 companies, of whom Lord Davies made the samerequest, are even less impressive (and half these companies don't currently have a single woman on their boards).

Still, why should we expect companies to take this issue seriously when it is such hard work to get their corporate governance watchdog to do more than the bare minimum? Yesterday, the Financial Reporting Council announced it has now updated its corporate governance code to include a requirement that companies report annually on their diversity policy, with specific reference to women. What it refuses to do, however, is require companies to say what targets they have set themselves and how they are working to achieve them. That, says the FRC, would be too much like imposing mandatory quotas, a policy option Lord Davies has rejected, at least for now.

Never mind that all companies should at the very least be working towards the 25 per cent target now set for them (it rises to 30 per cent by 2020), or that so many companies have not even acknowledged this. The FRC intends to let them off the hook once more.

It will be fascinating to hear what women themselves have to tell the Prime Minister this afternoon about their experiences, even if the chances of persuading Mr Cameron to do much more seem slim. He is, after all, a Prime Minister who presides over a Cabinet of 25 men and just four women.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links