By Daniel Hunter

Latest figures for Women on Boards published today (Monday) show that female representation in the UK’s top companies’ boards continues to increase and have been welcomed by Business Secretary Vince Cable.

The statistics, published 6 months after Lord Davies presented his latest annual report in April 2013, suggest that the UK is making good progress in reaching the target of 25% of board positions being held by women by 2015. Lord Davies published his original report in February 2011.

Figures published today for the FTSE100 show that:

- 19% of directors are female (up from 12.5% when Lord Davies reported in February 2011 and 17.4% in May 2013). Of this

- 23.8% of non-executive directors are female (up from 15.6% in February 2011 and up from 22% in May 2013

- 6.1% of executive directors are women (up from 5.5% in February 2011 and up from 5.6% in May 2013)

- 24% of board appointments since 1 March 2013 have been women. In May 2013 this was 12%

- in order to reach Lord Davies’ target of 25%, FTSE100 companies need to appoint 66 more female directors in the next 2 years

“I’m glad the number of women at the top of our most successful companies continues to rise. Businesses are clearly still striving to get the right mix of talent around their boardroom table and we must not lose that momentum," Business Secretary Vince Cable said.

“We have until 2015 to reach our target of 25% of women on the boards of listed companies which Lord Davies set us two years ago. With today's encouraging figures, I am confident we can get over the finish line.

"But appointing more women as non executive directors is not an end in itself. This is about more talented women getting executive experience, so that they will not only advise, but run this country's great companies."

Lord Davies said: "These figures are a sign that we have come a long way since our original report in 2011. The target of 25% in the FTSE100 by 2015 was rightly ambitious but the increase in the figures is a sign that businesses are not letting the issue pass them by.

"However, this is no time to get complacent and think that the job is nearly done. We have still got a long way to go but at least these numbers are moving in the right direction after stalling earlier in the year.

"Businesses are making real efforts to find and appoint capable women to their boards and I will continue to champion their efforts. We have now moved to a place where it is unacceptable for the voice of women to be absent from the boardroom."

While good progress is being made in terms of the representation figures, there is still more work needed to address the number of all-male boards in the FTSE100, which has increased in the last 6 months.

With 79 boards with females on them in February 2011, the figure was at an all time high in May 2013 with 95 companies. However, this has now decreased to 94 companies. Government continues to engage these companies with Vince Cable writing to the all-male boards earlier this year asking them to outline what steps they taking to address this issue.

More promisingly, figures for the FTSE250 today show that:

- 14.9% of directors are female (up from 7.8% in February 2011 and up from 13.8% in May 2013). Of this;
- 18.6% of non-executive directors are women (up from 17% May 2013)
- 5.4% of executive directors are women (down from 5.7% in May 2013)
- there are 199 boards with females on them, up from 188 in May 2013

The Business Secretary continues to work closely with the FTSE350 to help them increase the female representation on their boards. Both he and Business Minister Jo Swinson are holding sectoral-based roundtables with the FTSE350 over the course of the autumn.

In addition, ministers will be meeting influential senior women business leaders to discuss the progress in the next 2 weeks. The Business Secretary also recently appointed Charlotte Sweeney, previously Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Nomura, to review the executive search agency voluntary code of conduct and recommend certain improvements that can be made to the code.

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