No changes in the company boardroom

But watching the Pru’s directors lined up en masse, the thing that struck me was the almost complete absence of women. There was only one, Anne Burdus, who, according to the blurb, was formerly on the committee of the Automobile Association.

I have touched on this subject in this column before, and finding hard facts about women directors of FTSE-100 companies has always been the big problem. Now, Cranfield University’s management school has sifted through the material and come up with some startling findings.

Out of about 500 executive directors with FTSE companies, only around eight are women. Add in non-execs and the number swells to perhaps 50, including familiar names like Dame Stella Rimington and Lady Patten.

Of the executives, most can name Dame Marjorie Scardino at Pearson, although her reign may well be drawing to an end. Of the remaining seven hands-on women directors, two are with M&S: Alison Reed, the finance director and Laurel Powers-Freeling, director of M&S Financial Services.

Legal & General’s main board includes Kate Avery, former MD of Barclays Stockbrokers. Helen Weir is finance director of Kingfisher.

It is difficult to see things changing. It was clear from the Prudential agm that power was vested in the chief executive, FD and company secretary, all male.

Yet despite their lack of progress in the boardroom, women have scaled the heights in the professions. Denise Kingsmill at the Competition Commission is a shining example. I suspect the men in suits who dominate Britain’s corridors of power rather like things the way they are.

  • Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times.

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