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March 27, 2014 - Rachel Miller

More women in the boardroom than ever before

More women in the boardroom than ever beforeThe latest research into the number of women in the boardroom shows that numbers are continuing to climb, but business and government commentators agree there's more work to be done.

Cranfield University School of Management's latest Female FTSE Board report shows that women now account for more than 20% of board positions in the FTSE100 – up from 12.5% in 2011 and 17.3% in April 2013.

At the same time, Lord Davies of Abersoch has presented the third annual progress report into women on boards. Lord Davies originally set a target in 2011 of achieving 25% in 2015­. Just 50 new female appointments to FTSE100 boards need to be made in the next year for this goal to be achieved.

Lord Davies said: "We are finally seeing a culture change taking place at the heart of British business. Companies have got the message that better balanced boards bring real business benefits. However, the eyes of the world are on us as we enter the home straight. They are judging us as to whether the voluntary approach, rather than regulation, will work – we need to now prove we can do this on our own."

Women now account for 20.7% of overall board directorships in the FTSE100. However, women mainly hold non-executive positions – they account for 25.5% of non-executive directorships and 6.9% of executive directorships. Meanwhile, in the FTSE 250, women account for just 15.6% of overall board directorships and there are still 48 all-male boards.

Business secretary Vince Cable said: "More needs to done to improve the number of women in executive positions. These will be the CEOs of tomorrow and businesses still aren't tapping into the vast talent pool available to them."

Lisa Buckingham, senior adviser on diversity at the Institute of Directors (IOD), said: "It is encouraging to see how companies have improved boardroom diversity since Lord Davies' initial recommendations in 2011. However most of the increase in female representation has been non-executive and the IoD believes strongly that we should be looking for better balanced boards at the executive level."

Katja Hall, Confederation of British Industry (CBI) chief policy director, said: "These latest figures show the voluntary approach recommended by business to Lord Davies is working. However there is still some way to go, so now is not the time to take our foot off the accelerator."

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