More women on boards, but 'enormous amount to be done'
Fewer than one in 10 of the UK's biggest companies have a female executive director involved in managing the company directly rather than overseeing its management, according to new research.
While the total number of female directors in the UK's 100 largest companies has almost doubled over four years to 263, just 24 of their executive directors are women.
Only five have female chief executives: Liv Garfield at Severn Trent, Carolyn McCall at easyJet, Alison Cooper at Imperial Tobacco, Moya Greene at Royal Mail and Veronique Laury-Deroubaix at Kingfisher, although this is an all-time high.
It comes amid the latest government-sponsored report by Lord Davies which aims for 25% of female directors on FTSE 100 boards by 2015.
Since the target was set, the number of women in boardrooms has risen to 23.5%.
Business Secretary Vince Cable praised the "enormous progress" that has been made.
He now believes the UK figure could be exceeded by a third by 2020.
But Mr Cable said: "An enormous amount still has to be done... the real issue we found is that more effort is still required.
"We need to change the outlooks of some of the recruitment firms. Some of them are quite progressive, but not all."
He added that focus should be on ensuring women are rising fast enough through the pipeline and taking executive positions.
The Female FTSE Report by Cranfield also concluded that firms needed to look below board level at the "pipeline" of upcoming managers and to encourage a working culture where meritocracy is nurtured.
Improvement could also happen on FTSE 250 boards, where 23 still have no women on their boards and only 4.6% of executive directors are women, it said.
Terry Scuoler, the chief executive of the manufacturers' organisation, the EEF, said: "Meeting target is not enough.
"Gains in female board representation are being made in non-executive roles, but there continues to be a low number of women executive directors."