All but a handful of the UK’s biggest companies missed last week’s deadline to set out their plans to put more women on their boards. Only eight companies in the FTSE 100 have announced how they aim to meet the target of 25% women directors set down by the government.

Proportion of women on boards is only 14.3 per cent of total directors
FTSE 100 firms have been slow to announce their targets to boost the number of female directors they employ, despite Lord Davies’ six-month deadline, which expired this week.

Two different sets of research suggest that fewer than 20 firms set and announced gender targets for their boards before the September deadline.

In his report, Women on Boards, published on 24 February, Davies recommended that FTSE 100 companies should set their own targets for boosting the number of female board directors. He also set a deadline for the firms to publish their goals within the next six months and that time limit would officially end on 24 August or ‘by September’.

Davies recommended that FTSE 100 firms should set a minimum goal of 25 per cent female board members by 2015. In addition he called for FTSE 350 employers to set out percentage goals for female directors.

Research from law firm Pinsent Masons suggested that only eight FTSE 100 firms have set out their women-on-boards targets. They were Centrica, Marks & Spencer, Land Securities, HSBC (25 per cent), Anglo American (30 per cent), GlaxoSmithKline, National Grid and Vodafone.

However, initial research from Ruth Sealy, a senior research fellow at the Cranfield School of Management and a member of Davies’ panel, gave a higher figure of at least 15 firms announcing targets. Her final total will be published in October.

Pinsent Masons’ report did highlight other companies, such as BAE Systems, Morrison Supermarkets, Aviva and RBS, which had used their annual reports or other documents to highlight their plans to increase female board member numbers, but which had stopped short of announcing the boardroom goals Davies had requested.

RBS, for example, said: “We are currently looking for new directors and hope that we will be able to identify women of appropriate quality.”

Pinsent Masons also said that a further 32 companies had between 15 and 25 per cent women directors, which means that 46 of the FTSE 100 have already got to where Davies wanted them to be by the end of 2011.

However, the law firm’s report said: “A percentage measurement is not always a fair reflection of what is happening as it inevitably depends on the total number of board members.

“Burberry, for example, has the best ratio in the FTSE 100 with 42.9 per cent, achieved by having three women on a board of seven, while Prudential scores only 18.8 per cent with the same number of women on a board of 16.”

The number of women on boards has increased overall from 88 at the end of 2010 to 156 by August 2011, representing an increase from 12.5 per cent to 14.3 per cent of all FTSE 100 directors, the report said.

source and The Times.