Jim Armitage: Kingfisher aside, most women in the boardroom are still only getting the more menial roles

 

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Outlook For all the rallying cries of politicians and campaigners, the corporate door policy when it comes to women remains one-in-one-out.

So, as Kingfisher hires Veronique Laury to become the (drumroll…) fifth female boss in the FTSE 100, Ana Botin is vacating her post at the top of Santander UK to head the family firm in Spain. She is likely to be replaced here by a man, Nathan Bostock.

The picture’s improving one layer down, where the percentage of Footsie board directors who are women has jumped from 12.6 per cent to 22.2 per cent since 2010. But that does not reflect where the real power lies. Most of the big increase for women has been in non-executive director roles. These are part time positions more about oversight of the board and corporate governance than actually running parts of the business. That, the big, multi-million dollar decisionmaking stuff, is done by executive directors. And they are still nearly all men.

Figures from the Board Watch lobbying group show that, while 26.9 per cent of FTSE 100 non-execs are now women (up from 15.6 per cent), they still make up only 6.9 per cent of executive directors. Worse still, that figure for executives has barely moved from the 5.5 per cent of 2010.

The numbers are far worse in the FTSE 250 where the media and politicians don’t tend to harangue the chairman as much as those in the premier league. There, only 5 per cent of executive directors are women.

Looking on the bright side, we are doing better than the US on this issue, where women have made up about a fifth of board positions on the Fortune 100 for the past three years. But it’s still not good enough.

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