Boardroom door still shut to women

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The Independent Online

Britain's biggest companies have utterly failed to improve the number of female directors on their boards over the past year, a report published by Deloitte today shows. The accountant said just 3 per cent of executive directors are women, exactly the same number as 12 months ago.

It also said executive pay and bonuses had continued to rise at a faster rate than benefits paid to ordinary staff.

Deloitte's survey of all the companies in the FTSE 350 index reveals that just nine are run by women. Only two of these women run FTSE 100 companies - Dame Marjorie Scardino, the chief executive of Pearson, and Dorothy Thompson, the chief executive of Drax Power.

Deloitte said female representation among non-executive directors was only marginally better, with women accounting for just 10 per cent of all posts in the FTSE 350, compared with 9 per cent last year. There are just three female non-executive chairmen at the top 350 companies.

The report shows high-profile women bosses - such as Dame Marjorie and Baroness Hogg, chairman of 3i - remain a tiny minority, despite pressure for more women in the boardroom.

Carol Arrowhead, the head of the remuneration practice at Deloitte, said the report was disappointing. She warned there was little prospect of the picture improving. "For female executives who do make the board, their first position is very often in finance or human resources, but the number of HR directors who sit on the board is now falling," Ms Arrowhead said. "The picture on non-executives is, if anything, even more depressing because there is such a big population of successful women whose services are not being called upon."

Deloitte's research also shows that executives' remuneration packages continue to increase in value at a much swifter rate than those of their employees. The typical executive director received a 6.8 per cent pay increase last year and was potentially eligible for a bonus worth 100 per cent of his salary, rising to 150 per cent at the 30 largest companies in Britain. In practice, bonus payments averaged 60 per cent of annual pay, compared with 50 per cent last year.

By contrast, national average earnings for the workforce as a whole, including bonuses, rose by only 4.4 per cent over the year to the end of July, according to the Bank of England.

The total number of executive directors on company boards has fallen by 20 per cent since 2002, following recommendations that they should be outnumbered by non-executives. At the typical FTSE 350 company, 60 per cent of the board is now made up of non-executive directors.