Lord Davies praised some “excellent work” from Britain’s biggest publicly listed companies, which are on track to meet his target of having 25% of board directorships chaired by women by 2015.
Over a quarter (27%) of all FTSE 100 board appointments have been taken by women since Lord Davies published his Women on Boards report last February, up from 13%.
According to the One-Year-On report, 47 female appointments have been made since last February – the largest ever annual increase of women on boards.
Women now account for 15.6% of all FTSE 100 directorships, up from 12.5% last year. There are currently only 11 all-male boards, down from 21.
17 companies have already hit the 25% target and a further 17 have a female representation of between 20-25%.
Lord Davies says: “I believe that we are finally seeing a culture change taking place right at the very heart of British business in relation to how women are seen within the workforce.”
Amanda Mackenzie, chief marketing and communications officer at Aviva and a member of Lord Davies's review panel, says: “What has been achieved in year one is hugely encouraging, particularly for a generation of talented women who will form part of the diverse and better boards of the future.
“Year Two is about focusing on developing that pipeline of female executive talent, tackling all male boards and growing the momentum of change.”
Lord Davies echoes this sentiment, saying that “efforts need to be ramped up and the speed of change accelerated if we’re to avoid Government interference.”
In the FTSE 250, women have taken 26% of all appointments, meaning that women now account for 9.6% of all directorships. The number of all-male boards has fallen from 52.4% to 44.8% – the first time that all-male boards have been in the minority.
Secretary of State for Business, Vince Cable says: “Increasing female board representation is a win-win proposition for business. Well-balanced boards with broader experience introduce fresh perspectives and new ideas, which help improve performance and boost productivity.
“This report provides real evidence that business is taking the issue of board diversity seriously and is working to bring about the necessary changes. It demonstrates why we don't think quotas are necessary at the moment as the UK is making the voluntary approach work.”
Earlier this month, Viviane Reding, the EU Justice Commissioner, threatened legislation to enforce gender quotas, after describing the progress of women at board level across Europe as “unsatisfactory”.
The EU has set up its own, more ambitious, targets of raising female board representation to 30% by 2015 and 40% by 2020.
This move was heavily criticised by business groups across Britain, with Helena Morrissey, Founder of the 30% Club, saying: “Quotas actually undermine the principle of equality and are patronising to women. Even those countries with quotas are still struggling with genuine equality and there’s evidence that shareholder value can be destroyed if quotas are imposed. Directors need to be there on merit.”