Women occupy on average 30.9 per cent of top jobs across 11 sectors, research by BBC News has shown, including business, politics and policing.
The study reveals that the armed forces and judiciary have the fewest women in top posts - 1.3 per cent and 13.2 per cent respectively - while secondary education have the most at more than a third, or 36.7 per cent.
Women represent 1.3 per cent of brigadiers or their equivalent and above across the Army, Navy and RAF; 13.2 per cent of the most senior judges; 14.2 per cent of university vice-chancellors; 16.6 per cent of the most senior staff in the police; and 34.7 per cent of the senior civil service.
Women fair best in secondary education, where they make up 36.7 per cent of headteachers, and in public appointments, where they account for 36.4 per cent, the analysis found.
The European Commission is considering new laws to get more women into top management jobs and a public consultation aimed at finding ways of increasing the number of women in top jobs - including mandatory quotas - ended yesterday.
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said it was “crystal clear” the issue needed to be addressed.
Barrister Cherie Blair backed quotas for women in the boardroom and Parliament in a speech last December.
She said: “The truth is that we have waited and waited and unless we do take special measures to look at the systemic reasons why women aren’t making it to the top, we are never going to succeed.”