Cable: Still Not Enough Women On UK Boards

The Business Secretary says “alarm bells” should be ringing for FTSE chairs not doing their bit for gender diversity

By Anushka Asthana, Political Correspondent

Vince Cable has warned the “threat of EU mandatory targets” forcing big companies to appoint many more women onto their boards is still a real possibility because the UK has yet to meet its 25% goal.

It comes as the Business Secretary publishes a list of the 10 “most improved” FTSE 100 companies, including household names like HSBC, in a bid to persuade other companies to follow suit.

Topping the list is Old Mutual, which has seen a 38.5% increase since 2010 – although it began with the very low base of no women at all.  Aggeko is second and then Glaxosmithkline, which has risen by 28 percentage points to 35.7%.  Capita is in sixth place, and HSBC is in 10th, although both began from a stronger position than many of their competitors.  Capital had 22.2% of its board as women in 2010, and that had risen to 44% by October 2014. HSBC rose from 16.7% to 37.5%.

Mr Cable says the 25% target for women on boards is ‘in sight’

Mr Cable said: “Seeing the enormous progress made by these 10 top FTSE 100 companies demonstrates that the UK’s voluntary, business-led approach is working. Our target of 25% women on boards by 2015 is in sight.  “However, the threat of EU mandatory targets remains a reality if we do not meet it.

“Businesses must not take their foot off the pedal during the final stretch – if we are to avoid action from Brussels we must continue to demonstrate that our voluntary approach is the right one and is working.”

He said “alarm bells” should be ringing for FTSE chairs not doing their bit for gender diversity.  He announced the figures at an event at Barclays headquarters in London alongside Lord Davies at Abersoch, who has assessed progress in this area for the Government.  He said: “I have never doubted that the UK has plenty of talented senior women, capable and willing to serve on FTSE boards.

“In 2011, British business said they could fix this problem on their own and I am delighted we are now seeing evidence of this, with more women being picked to serve on the boards of Britain’s biggest companies.

“However, the job is not yet done.”