February 24, 2011 / 4:19 AM / 8 years ago

FTSE 100 should aim for 25 percent female boards - report

LONDON (Reuters) - FTSE 100 companies should aim to have a minimum of 25 percent of women on their boards by 2015, a government-commissioned review recommended on Thursday, but it did not advocate enforceable quotas.

“We do need radical change in the boardrooms of Britain,” former trade minister Mervyn Davies told a press conference.

Davies — asked by the government last year to head the review — said all heads of boards should announce their goals for boosting female board representation within the next six months and stick to them, or explain why they had not done so.

Women make up 46 percent of Britain’s economically active population but just 12.5 percent of FTSE 100 boards, while half of companies in the FTSE 250 have no women directors.

FTSE 100 companies should aim for a least a quarter of their boardrooms to be made up of women by 2015, Davies said.

His report also recommended that companies advertise non-executive board positions to encourage greater diversity in applications and that headhunting firms draw up a voluntary code of practice encouraging gender diversity in board level appointment.

The recommendations reflect a growing trend in developed countries to try to encourage greater diversity at board level.

France’s parliament gave final approval last month to a law forcing large companies to reserve at least 40 percent of their boardroom positions for women within six years.

The law brings France into line with Norway, where quotas ensuring a minimum level of female representation in boardrooms were introduced in 2003 and Spain, where a similar measure was passed in 2007.

However, the report said it did not currently favour enforceable quotas.

“In our minds quotas is the answer to the wrong problem,” said Susan Vinnicombe, one of the report’s authors.

Davies said he believed a voluntary target would be successful but that, if these were not achieved, enforceable quotas might have to be considered.

“...if we don’t get success then obviously people reserve the right to set quotas,” he said.

Additional writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Adrian Croft

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