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Britain is failing women leaders, warns report.


The number of directorships held by women on the FTSE 100 corporate boards has remained at the same level of 12% as in 2008, a report has revealed.

The 2009 Female FTSE report from Cranfield School of Management that details the number of women directors in the top 100 FTSE companies has revealed a discouraging picture for women with only 113 women currently holding 131 FTSE 100 directorships compared to 834 men holding 947 directorships.
The number of companies with female executive directors is also down to 15 (from 16) and there has been a drop in the number of boards with multiple women directors to 37 (from 39). In addition there is a decline in the overall number of companies with women on boards resulting in one in four companies having exclusively male boards.
There has also been a drop in the number of women holding key positions in FTSE 100 companies. Last year saw the highest number with five female CEOs and three regional CEOs. Today there are only four female CEOs.
Commenting on the report, Minister for Equality and Women, Harriet Harman said: "This report shows that we are moving in the right direction and there is still much more that needs to be done.  Businesses that run on the basis of an old boy network and do not draw on the talents of all the population will not be the ones that flourish and prosper in the 21st century."
Top of the league for diversity this year was a draw between Alliance Trust and Burberry where women take the head roles of chair, CEO and CFO. Alliance Trust was new to the FTSE 100 last year and top of the rankings with three of its seven (43%) board members being female. It is a similar story with Burberry, new to the FTSE 100 this year, and also with three out of seven female board members.
However equality is still a long way off: Of the 156 new appointees to the FTSE 100 in the past year, just 14.7%, were women.  Of the 23 new female appointees, 14 had not previously held FTSE 100 directorships, which is a small increase on last year’s new intake to the pool of female FTSE directors.  What is interesting is that of the 14 women new to the FTSE boards, only one is a British national, suggesting that nationality may be an important element of their human capital for board appointments.
“It would appear that instead of becoming a time for change the economic climate of the last year has left the top companies more male dominated.  As recent research increasingly suggests it is only
when a critical mass of women in the boardroom is attained – with three or more female board members – that real culture change can occur”, said report co-author Dr Ruth Sealy.

“Interestingly, for both men and women, there has been a decline in the percentage of directors holding two seats and an increase in those holding three seats. This suggests that some organisations are sticking with the elite pool of directors that they know. Obviously, this does not help expand the talent pool.  The lack of increase is worrying, particularly during a year when there were opportunities to increase the diversity of our top boards.

Sarah Williams-Gardner, director from Opportunity Now - a charity working with employers to eliminate the workplace barriers for women, added: “The economic crisis and collapse of many institutions should have proved a catalyst for organisations to review who and how they select leaders. I firmly believe that achieving a better gender parity on boards is not a nice to do, but something which can offer vital business advantage."

“There are still shockingly few women in the boardrooms of Britain. Having a more diverse management team helps avoid identikit thinking and encourages a dynamic mix of experience, perspectives, attitudes and approaches, which ultimately leads to better leadership. Research has proved that mixed management groups are more effective than homogeneous ones in making strategic decisions, and delivering better and more innovative business results," she said.

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