A study of companies listed on the FTSE 350 index published in the Economic Journal found there was a 20% chance of an employer appointing a woman if another woman left its board. This likelihood fell to 10% when a man had held the post.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and University of Sheffield said the findings suggested a gender bias existed at the top of British business.
Professor Brian Main of the University of Edinburgh Business School said: “The process of making non-executive boardroom appointments is not yet gender-neutral.”
The findings followed plans published by Lloyds Bank to have 40% of its 5,000 senior workforce positions held by women by 2020.
No other bank has matched the target in the wake of Lloyd’s announcement earlier this month.
Nationwide HR director Keith Astill told HR Magazine the bank would continue its current efforts to achieve a 25% target of female board representation by 2015.
“In line with the UK, Nationwide has been working for a number of years to have an increased representation of females, particularly in senior management positions on the boards,” he said.
“We’ve seen a lot of progress in the past few years. Over the last few years we’ve seen a substantial increase across the board. Two-thirds (67%) of our workforce is female, and 55% of females are managers.
“There’s a lot to be put in place, however, to make sure we’re getting females, particularly for them to come back after having families, and reduce some of those barriers."
Astill said is made “business sense” to have better representation of women in the workforce.
He also highlighted that Nationwide promoted gender diversity by sponsoring the Business in the Community campaign Opportunity Now, which aims to increase women's success at work.
In 2011, the Government set a target for 25% of all directorships in FTSE 100 companies to be held by women by 2015.