By Daniel Hunter

As the fourth anniversary of the Lord Davies review approaches, the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, is urging businesses to accelerate the pace of change for female representation on boards, highlighting that there has only been a 1.8% increase at FTSE 100 executive director level since 2012. While some progress has been made, the CIPD says that the pace of change must accelerate.

This is the clear message that will be discussed later today when the CIPD joins forces with Business and Women & Equalities Minister Jo Swinson MP and other business leaders to launch new research on the issue and to discuss progression routes for women into senior roles.

At the event, the CIPD will urge more businesses to improve visibility of women in both executive and non-executive roles. In particular the professional body is calling for businesses to adopt a separate voluntary target of at least 20% female executive directors among FTSE 100 firms by 2020. This call to action and the issue of quotas versus voluntary targets will be discussed in detail at the event by Jo Swinson MP, 30% Club founder Helena Morrissey, economist and author Vicky Price, Ann Pickering, HR Director for O2 UK, as well as CIPD’s Diversity Adviser Dianah Worman OBE.

The event will also mark the launch of the CIPD’s latest research on gender diversity in the boardroom. Gender Diversity in the Boardroom: Reach for the top explores perspectives on female representation as well as practical strategies for improving gender diversity at the top of organisations. It found that a clear majority of businesses surveyed (60%) were against mandatory boardroom quotas and think that voluntary targets, greater initiative awareness, workforce monitoring and building sustainable strategies are the most effective ways to improve long term gender diversity, both in the boardroom and beyond.

Jo Swinson MP, Minister for Business and Women & Equalities, said: “Gender diversity in the boardroom simply makes good business sense. There is growing evidence that companies with more women on their boards do outperform their male-dominated rivals and we are starting to see a change in corporate culture at the top.

“FTSE boards have made fantastic progress since the Davies Review launched in 2011 but we must keep up the momentum to reach our 25% target by 2015. The potential threat of EU mandatory targets should be at the forefront of companies’ minds, if they are unable to show that they are doing their part to improve gender diversity.

“I urge businesses to continue championing talented women to deliver lasting change. This latest CIPD report rightly points to the need to increase the number of Executive Director appointments and I look forward to seeing our latest statistics in March, to see how we are progressing.”