Carolyn Fairbairn (2) Image: CBI

The UK needs more women in senior executive positions, according to CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn.

In her first speech on the issue of diversity, Ms Fairbairn is calling for the successor to the Davies Review to implement a new 25% voluntary, business-led target for female senior executives in major UK companies.

The Davies Review set the target of women making up 25% of FTSE 100 boards, which was achieved in 2015.

Speaking in London tomorrow (Thursday), the CBI director-general will point out that despite the success of the Davies Review, women still make up less than 10% of chief executives on the FTSE 100. She will emphasise the importance of looking “beyond boards” to executive roles and urge chief executives to do even more to help capable women progress from entry-level to senior management positions.

Ms Fairbairn will say: “It’s fantastic that women are present in boardrooms in greater numbers. But let’s be clear. Non-executive directors and even chairmen attend between 4 and 10 board meetings a year. They approve strategy, are guardians of values, challenge decisions and help manage risk.

“These are important roles, but it is the job of executives to take daily decisions, shape and define strategy, and influence culture through the everyday examples that they set."

“We don’t have enough women running things and it is not getting better anything like fast enough," she will add.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that developing more women leaders will make a real difference to the success of the UK economy, our productivity and the UK’s future place in the world."

Ms Fairbairn will also point out of the success of voluntary targets, as opposed the compulsory quotas. She will say: "We have seen that voluntary targets work.

“The government has shown exceptional resolve and commitment in setting up the Davies Review; now is the time for the next phase – getting the number of women leaders up.

“The CBI is ready to work with government and businesses across the country on this vital agenda. We can help spread best practice, highlight successes, keep making the case and raising the profile, working alongside our members, many of whom care deeply about this."