Plant & Works Engineering

Women now account for 23% of board seats in FTSE 100 manufacturers - but share of executive roles remains ‘a challenge’

Published:  25 March, 2015

Women now account for 23% of all board seats in FTSE 100 manufacturers – up from 19% in 2013 and 21% last year - according to a recent report by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, sponsored by Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Two consecutive increases in the female share of directorships have kept Britain’s leading manufacturers in line with the wider FTSE 100 and on track to meet the minimum 25% female board representation recommended by Lord Davies in his 2011 Women on Boards report.

The report – Women in Manufacturing – is the third annual assessment of female boardroom representation in the sector and the further efforts required to attract and retain talented women. This year its findings are particularly important as the deadline is fast-looming for all FTSE 100 companies to meet the Davies target.

Over a quarter (28%) of FTSE 100 manufacturing companies are at or above this target. But some companies are far ahead of the game. GlaxoSmithKline, Unilever and Diageo all have five female board members each but, Diageo, with 45% or five of its 11 board members being female, leads the way.

In total, women hold 64 out of 279 directorships in FTSE 100 manufacturers and, for the second year running, all these companies – 25 in total - have at least one woman on their board. At the same time, the percentage of new board appointments going to women has increased to 25% (up from 19% last year), a step in the right direction if FTSE 100 manufacturers are to achieve the one-third new appointments target recommended by Lord Davies.

However, the split between executive and non-executive roles remains a challenge for the sector. While the female share of non-executive roles has increased (up from 25% last year to 28% today), their share of executive roles remains stubbornly static at 8%. Only five of the 25 FTSE 100 manufacturing companies have a female executive director.

The report points to this being a symptom of a wider challenge. Women accounted for only 7% of those starting an ‘Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies’ apprenticeship in 2012/13 and continue to make up only 23% of the manufacturing workforce.

This suggests that there is not a ‘short-term fix’ on the horizon. Instead, the focus must be on building the overall talent pipeline, while addressing the worryingly low number of women within it. Only then will the sector start to see a sustainable solution to the under-representation of women at every level including, in the longer-term, at executive director level.

Terry Scuoler, CEO of EEF, says: “Every single FTSE 100 manufacturer has at least one woman on their board. More importantly, most of those yet to reach 25% female board representation are a hair’s breadth away. Britain’s leading manufacturers are stepping up to meet Lord Davies’ challenge but, there is still some way to go.

“Simply meeting the target is not enough. The imbalance in our sector between the number of women in executive and non-executive roles is a symptom of a wider challenge. It tells us that we are failing to tap into the entire talent pool and must strive to not only build and maintain a satisfactory pipeline of talent, but also address the worryingly low number of women within it.

“Until we attract more female apprentices, graduates and other new entrants we will continue to see women under-represented at all levels in manufacturing, including the boardroom. Failing to tap into this rich resource is a wasted opportunity given our sector’s pressing and long-term need for skills.”

David Atkinson, Head of Manufacturing, Commercial Banking SME, Lloyds Bank, said: “As manufacturing continues to play a pivotal role in aiding the growth of the British economy, the onus remains on the industry to encourage the development of skilled workers. That includes creating a more diverse workforce with a greater female representation. Offering access to inspirational female role models remains vital to achieving these objectives, helping to eliminate old stereotypes, and providing evidence of what young women can achieve by pursuing their ambitions.

“As part of our Helping Britain Prosper Plan, we have committed to better represent the diversity of our customer base and our communities at all levels which is why we are aiming to have 40 % of senior roles held by women at Lloyds Banking Group by 2020."