· News

Cranfield report is discouraging for women aspiring to FTSE board director status

A report monitoring the male-female composition of FTSE boardrooms claims 'corporate Britain is failing women'.

The annual Cranfield Female FTSE Index and Report, sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), paints a depressing picture of women's chances of progressing to the board of FTSE companies.

The report reveals the number of directorships held by women on the FTSE 100 corporate boards has remained at the same level as it was in 2008 at 12%. The number of companies with female executive directors is down to 15 (from 16). In addition there has been a drop in the overall number of companies with women on boards; this means one in four companies have boards that are exclusively male. The percentage of female appointments, however, has risen from 10.7% to 14.7%

Commenting on the results, Sarah Churchman, director of diversity, PwC, said: "I'm optimistic that the recession has not broken the pipeline of female leaders for UK plc, but the report is a wake-up call for more than just the FTSE.

"The worst case scenario is that the byproduct of the recession is to stall or reverse gender diversity progress and investment across business, not just in listed firms, and thus short-changing the UK economy's recovery by removing or alienating a generation of female talent.

She pointed out that there is a "wider pool of ‘women in waiting' for the FTSE 100 working in a variety of other organisations so the issue is one of wider business and enterprises' investment in the supply of female middle and senior management, and not just that of the FTSE100."

Churchman described the Women's Leadership programme PwC set up in its Advisory team to build the pipeline of female partners (the most senior position). It is currently being extended across the company in the UK.

By monitoring and analysing women's progression through the ranks in the firm over six years, a programme was created specifically identifying and addressing the barriers to women's progression, providing female staff with targeted development, establishing mentoring relationships between senior executives and female staff, and providing bias awareness training.

The results of the first two years of the programme were: in 2007-08 20% of partner admissions were women; in 2008-09 the figure had risen to 25%. This compares with no internal female partner admissions in Advisory in the years prior to the programme's launch.