By Max Clarke

Lord Davies’ inquiry into women on boards is likely to recommend that blue-chip companies be given two years to raise sharply the proportion of women on their boards or face the imposition of quotas should send a wakeup call to FTSE companies. His steering committee is considering a target of between 15% and 30% and the European Commission is also considering moves to impose quotas if a planned voluntary code does not succeed.

Whilst I am not in favour of quotas as way of recruiting talent, drastic action needs to be taken if we are to see more women in the boardroom. 12.5% of women are directors in FTSE 100 companies, a figure which hasn’t changed in the last three years — this is derisory. Clearly organisations aren’t casting the net widely enough to recruit female talent; they are failing to promote women or women are opting not to pursue a board level career perhaps because companies are failing to make boardrooms attractive places to work.

Rather than sit and wait for things to improve or for quotas to be imposed, companies need to take action to progress women in business. This means taking a harsh look at why there aren’t a greater number of women on their board, scrutinising gender pay to ensure equality, canvassing views from the men and women in the business on these issues and analysing their retention records to see if improvement could be made in their retention of senior women.

Coaching and development programmes for women need to be in place to support women through key transition points such as maternity and companies need to champion diversity, placing it at the heart of their business. This means making it a genuine business goal not just paying it lip service. Only then will we see a real cultural shift and this will be far more impactful than something that could be achieved by quotas.