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Glass ceiling: compulsory quotas are the way forward, finds a poll of female leaders

Compulsory quotas for women in the boardroom are a key way forward, according to a poll of women’s business networks, carried out by leadership consultancy, White Water Group.

The research presents a view from the ground a year after the Government-commissioned Davies report concluded that companies needed to achieve 25% of women on UK boards by 2015 or face compulsory Government measures.

The poll asked leaders of 30 corporate women's networks, representing more than 10,000 female employees at some of the UK's top firms, what had changed since the Davies report was released in February last year. It reveals that:

Two thirds (66.7%) had seen no change in the opportunities for women in their companies, 80 % think that it will take up to 20 years to reach 30% of women in the executive suite and a further 20% believe it will take even longer.

Two thirds (66.7 per cent) conclude that quotas will be needed to achieve the target of 25 per cent by 2015

This survey suggests women in management don't believe David Cameron's hopes that employers will adopt self-regulation, will be enough.

Averil Leimon (pictured), co-founder of White Water Group, said: "Statistically the proportion of female directors at FTSE 100 companies rose from 12.5% in 2010 to 15% in 2011 but the women we spoke to don't feel that change is going fast enough or far enough. Quotas may be a blunt instrument but they may be inevitable.

"We don't believe, however, that compulsion will be enough to create change and reap the benefits of a more diverse management team. Our survey revealed that many women want more visible involvement from men, who will support the clear business case for more women in senior posts. This means mentoring women, investing in coaching and encouraging more female role models, as well as improving fairness in work practices."

"Getting this right is not just about careers for women; it's essential for the economy as a whole. We've shown that businesses with equal numbers of men and women at the senior management level are more profitable than businesses with predominantly male leaders. What's more, demographic shifts mean that by 2030 the UK will be short of 1.3 million people of leadership age. More women in senior management would address both these issues."