The 2011 Davies Review set a target for FTSE 100 companies of a minimum of 25% female representation on boards by 2015. Earlier this year, Lord Davies published the second annual progress report, revealing only a slight increase in the number of women in UK boardrooms and prompting the Business Secretary Vince Cable to warn that companies faced the "real possibility of quotas" if the original target is missed.
The latest figures, published last week by Professional Boards Forum BoardWatch, show that 19% of directors of companies in the FTSE 100 are female (up from 17.4% in May) and 24% of board appointments since 1 March 2013 have been women; in May this figure was 12%. This time Vince Cable has expressed confidence that "we can get over the finish line", whilst warning against complacency and noting that the number of all male boards has increased in the last six months.
In the meantime, the European proposals in this area rumble on. At the end of last year the European Commission announced proposals to increase the number of women on the boards of listed companies in Europe. A new Directive would set a target of 40% female representation on non-executive board member positions in larger companies listed on stock exchanges, to be achieved by 2020. Listed companies will also be obliged to have a "flexi-quota" – a self-regulated target for executive representation on boards, also to be met by 2020. Member States will only be able to rely on their own systems as an alternative if they are "as efficient" as the proposed Directive in achieving the 40% target.
The European Parliament is scheduled to discuss the proposal next month.