More women break through glass ceiling

One in five of Britain's leading companies have reached the Government's target of having women make up at least a quarter of their board, three years ahead of the 2015 deadline.

The figures show the struggle to smash the "glass ceiling" in boardrooms is accelerating. Recent months have seen 44 per cent of all new board-level appointments going to women, including Geneviève Berger (pictured) at the pharma giant AstraZeneca, Miranda Curtis at the retailer Marks & Spencer and Diana Layfield at the temporary power group Aggreko.

Only eight all-male boards remain, mainly made up of miners and including Glencore, Xstrata, Vedanta and Antofagasta. That's a sharp decline from the 21 exclusively male boardrooms noted by Lord Davies, the former trade minister, when he produced his Government-commissioned report in February 2011.

Overall 16.7 per cent of FTSE 100 board seats are held by women, the Professional Boards Forum reported. To reach the 25 per cent target for 2015, another 91 seats must go to women.

Elin Hurvenes, founder of The Professional Boards Forum, said: "The figures contradict recent reports that chairmen only recruit mirror images of themselves. It also puts to rest the argument that board-ready women don't exist. UK chairmen are doing a good job."

The drinks giant Diageo has the most women in the boardroom, with 44 per cent of directors being female. Burberry and Pearson, both led by women, are next best, with 38 per cent and 33 per cent female representation.