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FTSE 350 companies urged to boost female board numbers

FTSE 350 companies have been urged to increase the number of women in their boardrooms by business secretary Vince Cable.

In a joint letter to company chairs, Cable and Lord Davies said that with a deadline for FTSE 100 companies to achieve a 25% target for women on boards by 2015 approaching, they should use three targeted initiatives to drive progress on the matter.

Lord Davies, who set the target in 2011 after leading a review into women on boards, recommended with Cable that business aim to appoint one additional female director in the year ahead.

He said businesses should also consider giving two female candidates from senior management the opportunity to serve as a non-executive director at another company.

As a third objective, companies should state clear targets for the number of women at senior management and board level, and what steps they are taking to achieve those targets.

Kathryn Nawrockyi, director of Opportunity Now, Business in the Community's gender diversity campaign, backed the call.

“It’s great to see an increase in the number of women on boards and we welcome Vince Cable’s call for FTSE 350 companies to appoint more female directors,” she said.

“Of course, those directors should not be appointed just because they’re women, but because they’re the best people for the job.

“We are also particularly concerned about the lack of female executive directors in FTSE 350 companies, which is often caused by a shortage of women in senior management roles, and would encourage organisations to consider how they can increase the number of women at all levels, not just in the boardroom.”

The latest figures for the FTSE 100 show the percentage of women on boards currently stands at 20.4%, up from 12.5% in February 2011.

Cable said boardroom diversity had made “great progress” in recent years.

“But the time for talking and listening is over – we now need to start seeing businesses acting on their words,” he said.

“We’re now on the home stretch and countries across the world are looking at the voluntary approach we’ve taken. We need to show them that we can get over the finish line.”

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills estimates 60 new female board appointments are needed to reach the FTSE 100 target.