By Daniel Hunter

Recent data released by Cranfield School of Management suggests that the drive to increase female board representation has stalled; marking a disturbing setback says 2B Interface.

Women currently make up 17 per cent of board posts in the FTSE 100, well below the 25 per cent target recommended by a government-commissioned review two years ago. Business Secretary, Vince Cable has warned that companies may now face the unpopular prospect of quotas to ensure equality is kept on track.

Following these revelations, women’s minister, Maria Miller yesterday described the workplace as ‘designed by men for men.’

Beatrice Bartlay, Managing Director of staffing agency 2B Interface, believes that the slow-down of appointments is a ‘spanner in the works’ towards a gender-balanced board becoming the norm. “It has never been more important to recognise equality in business — a sentiment that we are clearly far from achieving, as shown in the current gender pay gap,” commented Bartlay.

“Women already face increased barriers to the top than men through childcare costs and responsibilities and a lack of female role models. FTSE organisations in particular need to make a conscious effort to dispel inherent inequality, and the only way of doing this is by pushing forward with the initiative to bring more women on to boards, be that via quotas or other means.

“In the first half of the financial year, 44 per cent of board level appointments in FTSE companies went to women - a really encouraging statistic which should have marked a transformation. But in the second half of the year this figure reduced to just 26 per cent.

"It is clear to see that many firms have once again become complacent about women on boards, instigating a big push when the initiative was proposed, then neglecting it once discussions have died down. It’s one step forward and two steps back.

“Businesses need to think more broadly about the value a female perspective can bring to a company’s performance and profit margins. They must be rid of the negative attitudes surrounding the idea that a woman’s ability to do the job suffers if they also have a family.

"FTSE 100 firms must cast a wider net to bring in talent, and promote from within to nourish internally too - just a small change in attitude can go a long way to improving the diversity of a company. Cable’s warning that unless the target of 25 per cent is met, quotas may be introduced as they have been in many other countries may be the shock some businesses need to pursue this.

“There are many businesswomen who have proven that they are just as capable of running the show as men. It is a huge shame that there still remains this glass ceiling stopping women from rising to the top spots within the UK’s best businesses,” concluded Bartlay.

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