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Putting women in the pipeline for board appointments

 April 10, 2013

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The 2013 Cranfield Female FTSE Board Report found that an impressive rate of female appointments to boards in the six months following the last survey (March 2012) has not been sustained. Though 44 per cent of board appointments in FTSE 100 companies between last March and September went to women,  that number has since dropped to 26 per cent.

The report concedes that the last year has seen a slight increase in the number of female-held directorships in FTSE 100 boardrooms. In 93 of 100 companies, there are now 194 female-held directorships (held by 169 women). That equates to 17.3%, an increase on last year’s figure of 15%.

Dr Ruth Sealy, one of the authors of the report, said that Lord Davies’ recommendation of 25% women on FTSE 100 boards by 2015 is “still in sight”, but only if the rate of new appointments going to women picks up promptly.

Businesses can take steps to make sure that there are consistently highly-qualified women in the running for board appointments. There’s much more to directorship than just a ‘power suit’, so companies must be priming their most talented female employees to take on executive positions through tailored guidance, coaching and training.

Certain companies have taken stock of this, and are ensuring that women are moving up the ranks through such initiatives.

Royal Mail Group – a business whose board is comprised of one-third women, including a female CEO – matches participants on its graduate schemes with a mentor from their first day on the job. Graduates are also offered development opportunities off-the-clock to supplement the work they do.

Energy supplier Npower similarly offers mentorship opportunities to its graduate recruits. These new hires also have the opportunity to participate in development schemes in diverse areas of the company.

Financial services provider Citi has initiatives to develop and nurture women’s talent at multiple levels. One such scheme is Coaching for Success, a development programme meant for mid-level female employees and delivered through workshops, one-on-one coaching and networking opportunities.  The programme “helps improve retention, increase promotion and support greater internal mobility,” Xanic Jones, diversity specialist for EMEA at Citi, told The Raconteur last month.

If FTSE 100 companies are to meet the target of 25% women in their boardrooms in the next two years, they must continue recruiting highly competent women to directorship level. By supporting female employees and developing their talent, companies can ensure that there will always be qualified, experienced women up for the challenge.

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