Businesswomen believe firms will ignore target for females on boards

SCOTTISH businesswomen are expecting firms north of the Border to fall at the first hurdle as a deadline set out in the Davies review into female representation on boards fast approaches, new research shows.

In a survey of 100 senior female business figures by the law firm Tods Murray, three-quarters of respondents forecast that companies will ignore Lord Davies of Abersoch’s call for listed companies to outline their plans by next month for increasing the number of women on their boards.

The report also said FTSE 100 companies should aim for a minimum of 25 per cent female representation by 2015.

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However, European justice minister Viviane Reding has set even stricter goals of 30 per cent by 2015 and 40 per cent by 2020.

She has warned she will consider calling for compulsory quotas if these “voluntary” goals are not met.

Six months after the publication of the Davies report, only two FTSE 100 firms in Scotland have surpassed the 25 per cent target.

Royal Bank of Scotland, which appointed Alison Davis and Baroness Noakes this month, now has 30 per cent of its board made up of women. Standard Life has 27 per cent.

Overall, Scottish FTSE 100 firms have recruited four women to their boards in the last six months.

These include Weir Group, which was previously one of the 18 top UK firms to have no women at the top. Scottish & Southern Energy also recruited Katie Bickerstaffe in July, bringing the number of women on its board to two (20 per cent).

Scotland has two FTSE 100 firms whose boards are completely devoid of women: Aggreko, the temporary power company headed by Rupert Soames, and Aberdeen-based oil services firm Wood Group.

On Wednesday, shadow Scottish secretary Ann McKechin will mark the six-month anniversary of the Davies report by convening a non-partisan meeting to encourage greater opportunity for Scottish women in the workplace.

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She said: “It’s clear from these latest figures that Scottish companies still have a long way to go to achieving the levels of diversity recommended by Lord Davies.”

The Tods Murray survey of its women’s business network found that a lack of previous director experience was often considered by respondents to be the biggest hurdle to winning jobs on boards.

But Clare Logie, strategic director of financial adviser Independent Women, said the debate over a perceived lack of boardroom skills was “tedious”. She said: “The vast experience on show in 2008 doesn’t seem to have saved the economic world, does it? Maybe if we were brave enough to bring on to boards a percentage of people with a different background, perspective and experience, we would have somebody there asking different and challenging questions that may enhance board and company performance in the long run.”

A spokesman for Aggreko said: “Aggreko chooses candidates for all positions on merit and has in the past considered women as candidates for directorships and naturally will continue to do so.”

Wood Group was unavailable for comment.

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