Supermarket giants and retailers have been named among the worst offenders when it comes to hiring women on their boards.
Despite having a workforce that can be made up predominantly of women on the shop floor, a smaller percentage of women are at the top table at Morrisons and Primark-owner Associated British Foods than at other major firms.
Ocado, BT, the London Stock Exchange and Bunzl were among others named and shamed in research from Cranfield University.
Despite having a workforce that can be made up predominantly of women on the shop floor, a smaller percentage of women are at the top table at Morrisons than at other major firms
An analysis of boards on FTSE 350 companies found that, on average, Britain’s biggest listed companies will meet a Government-backed target that 33 per cent of positions should be held by women at the end of 2020.
But beyond directors on boards, the number of women in executive, decision-making roles is woefully far behind.
According to Cranfield, 34.5 per cent of board director roles on the FTSE 100 and 32 per cent on the FTSE 250 were held by women in June.
But the figures vary wildly. On the FTSE 100, water firm Severn Trent and housebuilder Taylor Wimpey boasted 56 per cent of seats being held by women.
At the time of the report, Cranfield said Severn Trent was one of five FTSE 100 firms with a female chief executive, Liv Garfield, and was the only one that also had a female chairman, Christine Hodgson.
There were four other female bosses including Glaxosmithkline, whose boss is Emma Walmsley, Whitbread’s Alison Brittain, Natwest’s Alison Rose, and ITV, with Carolyn McCall.
FTSE female: Liv Garfield is the boss of Severn Trent
At the other end of the scale packaging group Bunzl only has 17 per cent representation and Paddy Power-owner Flutter just 20 per cent.
And only a quarter of seats are held by women at Ocado, Morrisons, Just Eat, cruise firm Carnival, builder Berkeley and BT.
Cranfield researchers said Severn Trent and Taylor Wimpey were ‘not the most likely companies’ to be in the top spot.
They added: ‘It is surprising to see companies such as Associated British Foods, BT, Carnival, London Stock Exchange, Ocado, Morrisons, Coca-Cola and Bunzl, all in sectors where there are many women.’
The drive to improve representation on boards started in 2010 when investment veteran Dame Helena Morrissey set up the 30 per cent Club.
Companies could sign up to appoint women to 30 per cent of board roles – but this figure was later pushed further by a 2016 Government-supported review on diversity.
This urged that women should make up at least a third of boards, executive committees and those reporting to them at FTSE 350 companies by the end of this year.
Although the board-level target is likely to be hit, the number of women in executive, decision-making roles is lagging.
On the Footsie just 13 per cent of executive-level roles are held by women – and for mid-cap companies this is 11 per cent.
Morrissey said: ‘Things are moving at a glacial pace. Some of this is down to company culture – but if you’re counting on one person battling the odds then we’re going to be here a long time.’
Sue Vinnicombe of Cranfield University said: ‘Our research establishes that it is not sufficient just to have a critical mass of women non-executive directors on a board in order to increase the number of women in the executive pipeline. There needs to be women in influential roles such as executive directors.’