Progress for women on FTSE 100 boards, but glass ceiling "still in place"

As head of retail banking at Lloyds Banking Group, one of the UK's biggest banking networks, you'd expect Alison Brittain to naturally garner respect from her team.

But despite her seniority, she has told The Guardian that her male colleagues "even now, try to talk over me".

While Brittian says she's ambivalent about proposed mandatory quotas in the UK to force companies to hire female executives, she fears the quotas could result in women being told they only got the job because of their gender.
"It shouldn't be necessary," she says. "But there are other days when I wonder: how do we get there? It is absolutely true that if I have a job on my team, any man will apply if they've got two out the 10 attributes required. Women will wait until they've got nine."

Since Lord Mervyn Davies published his 2011 report on boardroom gender equality and set a target that at least 25% of board positions at FTSE 100 companies be occupied by women by 2015, there has been a rise in the number of women on boards in the UK. Eighteen months ago, there were 20 all-male boards. Today, there are only 8.

But despite the rise in numbers, there is still a significant gender gap in place. According to the latest figures from Cranfield School of Management, the number of female board executives still sits at just under 7%. None of the 22 executive director appointments since September 2011 have gone to a woman. And while 44% of all appointments in the past six months have gone to women, they were all non-executive positions.

According to UK Business Secretary Vince Cable, there's a shift occurring but much more needs to be done. "The great majority of business leaders I meet with now recognise the economic case for gender balance and are actively working with us to increase the number of women on their boards and executive committees," he told The 30% Club, a UK group established to get more women directors on FTSE 100 boards.

"But we must also challenge the paternalistic culture and silent assumptions about women's priorities that are ultimately keeping the glass ceiling in place."

According to Helena Morrissey, founder of the The 30% Club, "there's a lot that remains to be done, but a paradigm shift is well under way."

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