Women in 51 seats of top 200 boards

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The Independent Online
JUST 51 women have reached the boards of Britain's top 200 companies - and more than three-quarters of these are non-executive directors, according to recent research from Ashridge Management College.

Its report, Women on the Boards of Britain's Top 200 Companies, shows that there are only 11 executive directors in this group, with just one - Ann Iverson, managing director of Mothercare - holding the most senior job in the company. A number of others, for example Rosemary Thorne, finance director of J Sainsbury, are the first women to sit on the boards of their companies.

Small as the number is, it represents a better performance than was revealed in the last Ashridge survey, in 1989. Then, 21 of the top 200 companies had women on their boards, compared with 49 now.

The profile of the average woman board member has also changed. Previously she would typically have been educated abroad or at Oxbridge, have a family link to the company or a title and have worked in local government or the voluntary sector. Now, she is younger, less likely to have a traditional education, and brings specialist business experience.

The total also suggests a better performance by the Ashridge companies than other data indicate to be the case elsewhere. The authors, Viki Holton, Jan Rabbetts and Sean Scrivener, feel this is a result of the involvement of many of the companies in the Opportunity 2000 campaign aiming to put more women into senior positions.