Still too few women in boardroom, warns ABI

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The Independent Online

UK boardrooms are becoming more diverse but the lack of female executives remains a major concern for investors, one of the country's leading shareholder groups has claimed.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) today called for businesses to step up their attempts to attract more women into boardrooms.

In a survey released ahead of its investment conference in London today, the ABI said only 6.6 per cent of FTSE 100 executives and 4.9 per cent of FTSE 250 executives were currently female despite Government attempts to address the imbalance.

However, the number of women being appointed to boards is increasing. Over the past year, 26.1 per cent of FTSE 100 and 30.6 per cent of FTSE 250 board appointments were women compared to 18.5 per cent and 11.9 per cent a year earlier.

"A board that is diverse in its composition is more likely to make better decisions and break down the tendency towards group think," the ABI said.

"Not only do board members with different perspectives challenge the status quo, they also introduce multiple views on the risks, consequences and possible implications of any board decision. In short, board diversity is integral to building a successful long term business."

In a separate survey, the ABI said FTSE 350 chairmen now saw the role of non-executive directors as "providing a constructive challenge to the executive team within a supportive yet challenging environment". It said chairmen felt they were getting the right level of engagement from their shareholders, which had increased in recent years.

Both surveys are of particular interest this year following the shareholder spring, which saw investors revolt against excessive boardroom pay at companies such as WPP and Aviva.

Otto Thoresen, director general of the ABI, said: "In a year dominated by a focus on executive pay, it is important to remember that companies do not fail because their pay structure is wrong but because of ineffective boards and failures of strategy development and execution."