One in five women thinks their gender stops them from reaching a senior management role in business, survey finds

Women currently account for 22.8% of all FTSE100 boards

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Almost a fifth of women believe it is impossible for them to reach a senior management role in business, according to a new survey.

While over 25 per cent of female employees dream of becoming a chief executive, a third say they have failed to meet their career expectations, a poll carried out by communications giant O2 discovered.

Female respondents blamed poor quality line management, a lack of training and negative office politics for their lack of progression and out of the 2,000 women polled, half replied that all the decision-makers in their company were male.

In 2011, Lord Davies of Abersoch set a target that 25 per cent of all FTSE100 boards should be made up of women. In October 2014, the figure was 22.8 per cent – up from 20.7 per cent in March 2014 and 12.5 per cent in 2011.

However, the O2 report said progress towards meeting the target was not moving fast enough.

Women said good luck often led to success in business, rather than skill, ambition or determination.

Ann Pickering, O2's HR director and board member, said: "As an employer, today's findings make for uncomfortable reading.

"We want all our people - male and female - to feel supported and encouraged throughout their career, and it's crucial that we remove any stumbling blocks preventing them from fulfilling their ambition and potential.

"Our research shows that, while the diversity debate has moved on outside of the office, not enough women are actually seeing this progress at work. If we're to achieve sustainable and long-lasting change, we can't just look at women already at the top, we need to focus our efforts on women at every level, creating a strong pipeline of female talent across British businesses.

"If we fail to do this, there is a very real risk that these women will seek these opportunities elsewhere."

The report was launched as part of a new guide aimed at helping women reach the highest levels in business.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "Great progress has been made to increase the numbers of women on corporate boards since 2010.  In the FTSE 100 alone, the percentage of women in the boardroom has now almost doubled to around 23 per cent and we have no all-male boards. With continued action from business, we hope to reach Lord Davies' 25 per cent target by 2015. 

"Our work continues in partnership with the private sector on initiatives to promote women to the boardroom and secure the talent pipeline.  However, this report is a reminder that companies must do everything they can to harness all available talent.  Better balanced boards are vital to securing the future competitiveness of UK."

Additional reporting by Press Association