Record number of women take seats in the boardroom

'There is a strong pipeline of women coming through to chief executive level'

The equality campaigner Lord Davies will this week step up the pressure on companies to put more women into executive committee roles, as he reveals that females hold a record number of seats in the boardrooms of Britain’s biggest companies – but men still dominate the top jobs.

The former trade minister is expected to confirm that the proportion of women on FTSE 100 boards has edged ahead of last year’s 20.4 per cent and is on track to hit the 25 per cent target set for 2015. Because most of that rise is down to the appointment of part-time, non-executive directors, Lord Davies is turning his attention to swelling the ranks of high-flying female executives.

His push comes amid evidence that more women are attaining senior roles, with a doubling in the number of females being promoted to chief executive roles over the last three months.

The Movers and Shakers survey from Sapphire Partners, the executive search firm, shows that 11 women were made chief executive of private, professional and public companies over the last three months, compared to four in the previous period. They include Inga Beale, boss of the Lloyd’s of London insurance market, Stacey Cartwright, head of the retailer Harvey Nichols,  and Sonya Leydecker, joint chief executive of the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills.

Sapphire’s managing director, Kate Grussing, said: “There is a strong pipeline of women in senior executive positions coming through to chief executive level. Women looking for role models for their own careers need to look beyond just the FTSE plc chief executive marker; there are many other big jobs which are just as important.”

Sapphire, which has been tracking female appointments for nine years, puts the spotlight on 85 new senior female executive appointments and 54 female new non-executive roles, which is nearly a third of all new non-executive appointments.

As well as a new female chief executive at Severn Trent, from April, there will be two female chairs of FTSE 100 companies, with Susan Kilsby joining Shire in addition to Dame Alison Carnwath at the property group Land Securities.

Lord Davies’s report and the annual Cranfield School of Management women’s survey will be published on Wednesday.

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