Businesses urged to 'radically change' way they promote women

The Davies report calls on leading firms to fill one in four board positions with women by 2015 – or face compulsory quotas

Britain's leading companies have been threatened with compulsory quotas if they fail to voluntarily boost the number of women in their boardrooms and implement a "radical change" in the way they promote senior female members of staff.

Lord Davies's report on gender equality at the top of the corporate world recommends that at least 25 per cent of the board membership at FTSE 100 companies be female by 2015 – double the present proportion – and that chief executives of the 350 largest UK companies should announce their "inspirational targets" for the boards of their own companies by September.

The Davies report also calls on companies to review the proportion of women represented on executive committees, immediately below board level.

The report was commissioned by the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, and the Minister for Women and Equalities, Teresa May, last year.

While rejecting the idea of compulsory quotas as "tokenism", Lord Davies said that "if the market is unable to correct itself, then quotas are a threat." However, he hoped the business case for improving female representation would be solid enough to persuade many firms to change their ways. The report states: "Evidence suggests that companies with a strong female representation at board and top management level perform better than those without and that gender-diverse boards have a positive impact on performance. It is clear that boards make better decisions [when there is] a range of voices, drawing on different life experiences."

Lord Davies, a former banking executive, added that if one third of new board appointments were female then the 25 per cent target for larger companies would be achievable with only 135 female board appointments.

Yet the Davies recommendations face significant obstacles. Eighteen FTSE 100 companies have no female directors at all, and nearly half of all FTSE 250 companies do not have a woman in the boardroom.

Research by The Independent indicates that many of the UK's largest and best-known enterprises have a long way to go before meeting the recommendations. At BP, for example, 92 per cent of senior managers are male; at Unilever the figure is 90 per cent; at 3i 86 per cent; and at Marks & Spencer, Vodafone, the John Lewis partnership and Pearson roughly 75 per cent of managers are men. Lord Davies identifies the career "attrition" of women staff as a key factor limiting their emergence at very senior and board levels.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, the gender "pay gap" has now been reversed for workers in their twenties, with women earning more than males; but by their thirties and forties the balance has shifted back in favour of men, suggesting that women leaving to start families still find it difficult to make up for lost promotion opportunities when they re-enter the workforce. This remains a significant factor in the persistence of gender inequality.

Stephen Alambritis, commissioner for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, commented: "At the current rate of change it will take 73 years for women to achieve equal representation on the boards of FTSE 100 companies. Clearly, we agree with Lord Davies that business needs to put its house in order. We also agree that it would be better for companies to take action themselves without Government having to impose quotas upon them."

Penny de Valk, chief executive of the Institute of Leadership and Management added: "We know that the talent is out there so UK business must be more flexible to achieve the required flow of female leaders into senior roles. However, this must not result in helicoptering women into top roles. Instead UK plc has to build an effective talent pipeline for female leaders."

Under the Davies proposals, quoted companies will be required every year to disclose the proportion of women on their board, the proportion in senior positions, and the overall proportion of women employees.

News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Travel
travel
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

1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel