By Claire West

New official statistics show that the number of women in the boardrooms of the UK’s top companies has increased in the past year, Business Secretary Vince Cable announced today.

This week sees the first year anniversary of the voluntary code of conduct for executive search firms. The code, developed by leading members of the industry in direct response to Lord Davies’ review into ‘Women on Boards’, sets out seven key principles of best practice for executive search firms to abide by throughout the recruitment process.

Since Lord Davies’ review and subsequent report, the number of women appointed to the boards of the UK’s top companies has reached unprecedented levels, with women now making up 16.7% of FTSE 100, and 10.9% of FTSE 250 boards, up from 12.5% and 7.8% respectively in 2010.

Secretary of State for Business, Vince Cable, said:

“The progress we have seen in the past year proves that the UK’s business-led approach to achieving boardroom diversity is working. The Voluntary Code of Conduct has played a key part in this progress.

“Diverse boards are better boards: benefiting from fresh perspectives, talent, new ideas and broader experience which enables businesses to better reflect and respond to the needs of their customers. This is good for women, good for companies who need to be the best they can be in order to compete in today’s tough global market place, and ultimately good for the UK economy as a whole. It is essential that Executive Search Firms and Chairmen continue to use the Code to increase this rate of change”.

Lord Davies said:

"I am very pleased to see the progress that has been made over the past year, and since the Code of Conduct was launched.

“I welcome the continued efforts and collaborations of Executive Search Firms and business groups to ensure that we see a sustainable and consistent change and that talent is recognised regardless of gender.”

Since March of this year women have made up 44% of newly appointed FTSE 100 board directors and 40% of those in the FTSE 250. The Executive Search Firms Code of Conduct, which requires 30% female long-lists and encourages firms to expand their traditional search avenues, has been welcomed by Executive Search Firms, Chairs and Candidates.

Over the last year Executive Search Firms have seen a continued culture shift amongst their clients, who are increasingly open to considering a wider range of female candidates and are placing a strong priority on appointing qualified women.

To date 34 leading Executive Search Firms have signed up to the code; to sign up please contact: Michael Reyner, MWM Consulting on 0207 484 1072