The Davies Report and women on boards

Print publication


Towards the end of last year, Lord Davies published his final report on improving the gender balance on British boards. The key points of the report are set out below.

  • At 1 October 2015, there are no male-only boards in the FTSE 100 and women hold 26.1% of board positions in those companies, compared to 12.5% in February 2011. Within the FTSE 250, women hold 19.6% of board positions, but there remain 15 male-only boards.
  • The steering group did not believe that quotas are warranted at this point. That said, European countries with quota regimes are likely to meet their target figures in the next few years and the UK will fall behind, both in Europe and internationally, if it does not progress beyond 26% female representation.
  • Work needs to be done to increase the number of women holding executive positions (currently 9.6% within the FTSE 100).

The report makes five recommendations to maintain and encourage greater momentum going forward:

  • That the voluntary, business-led approach to improving female board representation be continued for another five years.
  • Setting a target for female board representation in the FTSE 350 of 33% within five years, increasing the progression of women to the roles of chair, senior independent director and executive director, and asking all FTSE listed companies to address gender imbalance on their boards.
  • That FTSE 350 companies extend work on gender balance to their executive committees and in the most senior leadership positions.
  • That a new steering group be established under a new chair, comprising business and subject matter experts.
  • That the new steering group should review the above recommendations and, after consultation, publish more detailed comments at the start of 2016.

Whilst the report deals with FTSE 350 companies, other organisations may wish to take note of the recommendations and consider steps that might be taken to increase female board representation where necessary. The report seems to rule out a ‘quota’ approach being introduced in the UK in the foreseeable future. However, the European Commission is considering proposals which include mandatory quotas.