Women struggling to crack glass ceiling in top UK companies: report

Wed Mar 26, 2014 11:24am EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Reuters) - More women are sitting on the boards of Britain's blue-chip companies but the glass ceiling is yet to crack, with most top jobs still held by men and companies needing to do more to promote women, a government report said on Wednesday.

The third annual progress report found women now occupy a fifth, or 20.7 percent, of positions in FTSE 100 companies, up from 12.5 percent in 2011, within striking distance of a target for women to account for one quarter of board seats by 2015.

But campaigners admitted there was still a long way to go as women only account for 6.9 percent of senior executive roles in the FTSE 100 where there are only four women chief executives.

Two companies in the FTSE 100, commodities trader Glencore Xstrata and miner Antofagasta, still have all-male boards - although they told Reuters they are seeking female directors - and 48 FTSE 250 companies have all-male boards.

Former trade minister Mervyn Davies, leader of the government initiative since 2011, said the figures showed a voluntary drive to boost women around the boardroom table was working and ruled out the need for mandatory quotas such as those introduced in France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands and planned for Germany.

He said the key to lasting improvement was encouraging companies to drive change within, not legislation or government intervention that critics argue can lead to tokenism and "trophy directors".

"This is about changing the culture of corporate Britain, and using a stick is not the best way to do that," Davies told Reuters after launching the latest report in London.

"Everyone now sees that (having more women on boards) is great business sense so the debate is now moving from the boardroom to executive committees."   Continued...