Women board appointments slowing, says Cranfield study

Male and female executives Women make up 17% of the average board of directors at leading companies

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Progress in appointing more women to board-level roles at top UK firms has slowed, according to a survey.

The Cranfield School of Management said that in the first half of the financial year 44% of board level appointments at FTSE 100 firms went to women, but that slowed to 26% in the second half.

Cranfield says this indicates firms have become complacent about the issue.

Women make up 17% of board posts, well below the 25% target recommended by a government-commissioned review.

That is up from the 15% level recorded in the previous year's survey, but seven of the top 100 companies still do not have one female board director.

Lord Davies, a former banker, was asked by the government to look into the representation of women on boards.

His report, published in 2011, stopped short of recommending mandatory quotas for women executives but did suggest a goal of 25% of board members.

The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, said he was still not inclined to introduce compulsory targets: "Government continues to believe that a voluntary led approach is the best way forward.

"But today's report also serves as a timely reminder to business that quotas are still a real possibility if we do not meet the target of 25% of women on boards of FTSE companies by 2015."

The co-author of the report, Professor Susan Vinnicombe, said the gender balance at the top bore little relation to the situation elsewhere in companies.

"Despite women dominating the fields of human resources, law and marketing, this is not reflected at executive director level, where the positions are still going to men, who are being promoted internally over experienced female candidates."

Among leading companies, Burberry stood out as the only leading company with two women executive directors, giving it three female directors out of eight.

Drinks giant Diageo was next, with four women directors out of 11.

In joint third place were Capita, GlaxoSmithKline and Standard Life, each with a third of their boards being female.

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