A study by The Herald of Scotland’s leading 30 listed companies shows the number of women serving in the boardroom has risen from 29 to 37 in the past 12 months. As this is out of a total of 242 board positions, it means nearly 85% of directorships are still filled by men with just over 15% by women.
Eight companies are now overseen by an entirely male board, down from 10 a year ago.
Helena Morrissey, chief executive of funds house Newton Investment Management and founder of the 30 Per Cent campaign that seeks more women on company boards, told The Herald there has been a paradigm shift in attitudes. “I genuinely am quite excited about the progress that has been made,” she said. “There was a time when people said we had far more important issues to think about.”
Nosheena Mobarik, chairman of the Confederation of British Industry Scotland, said: “These figures suggest recent efforts to enhance boardroom diversity are beginning to bear fruit and that firms increasingly recognise the benefits of doing so.
“That is encouraging. However, there is still clearly plenty of room for improvement. More needs to be done within firms to build a strong pipeline of female talent which is able to reach the top, and more women need to be inspired to feel they too can achieve.”
Although it is hard to draw a direct comparison, figures suggest Scottish companies are broadly in line with the rest of the UK.
Women now make up 16.7% of board members of FTSE-100 companies, and 10.9% of FTSE-250 boards, up from 12.5% and 7.8% respectively in 2010.
Government figures show 44% of board appointments since March of this year have been women.
Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “The first priority for a business must be to identify the skills and attributes they require to provide their company’s leadership. The individuals on the board need to fulfil these requirements.
“Having a gender mix in a company’s leadership complements a business, and it is good that increasing numbers of businesses are benefiting from this. Ensuring the best leadership possible is a must for business growth and success.”
Only one Scottish company, Alliance Trust, which is run by Katherine Garrett-Cox, has a majority of women on its board. Others with strong female representation include Royal Bank of Scotland, which has three female directors out of 11, Aberdeen Asset Management, which has three female
directors out of 13, and Standard Life which has four female directors out of 12.
In all, eight companies out of Scotland’s top 30 recruited more women to their boards in the past year.
The only company to have cut the number of women on its board in the past 12 months is Aberdeen-based rail and bus giant FirstGroup.
Its sole female board member, Audrey Baxter, chief executive of food company Baxters, quit in December. But it said it remained committed to having a board composed 20% of women by 2015.
The increase in female directors follows the introduction of targets by Lord Mervyn Davies, the former trade minister, last year.
FTSE-100 companies have been given the voluntary target of increasing female board representation to 25% by 2015.
If progress is slow, the UK faces the threat of mandatory quotas from the European Union.
Meanwhile, the 30 Per Cent campaign has secured the backing of industry heavyweights including Douglas Flint, the Scot who chairs HSBC, Sir Philip Hampton, chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland and Sir Roger Carr, who chairs Scottish Gas owner Centrica.