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Friday, 21 February, 2003, 15:58 GMT
More women make the boardroom
Dame Marjorie Scardino, chief executive of Pearson
Scardino is the FTSE 100's only female chief executive
The number of women heading UK businesses has seen a sharp increase, according to the latest research from Cranfield School of Management.

If this increase continues we will have gender parity on our corporate boards in seven years

Susan Vinnicombe
Cranfield School of Management
After two years of falls, there are now more female directors than ever before leading UK companies listed in the FTSE 100 index, the study suggests.

The biggest increase was seen in executive director posts, where the number of women jumped from just 10 in 2001 to 15 in 2002.

"If this increase continues we will have gender parity on our corporate boards in seven years," said Susan Vinnicombe, director of the Centre for Developing Women Business Leaders at the Cranfield School of Management.

Time for a change

While the changing trend was applauded, some have complained it is still not going far enough to shake up male-dominance in the boardroom.

Top of the league
Marks & Spencer
J Sainsbury
AstraZeneca
BAA
Legal & General

Source: Cranfield
Women continue to hold only 7% cent of all directorships, according to Cranfield's research.

Clara Freeman, chairman of the campaign group Opportunity Now, said the number of female directors fell woefully short of where it could be.

Cranfield's "Female FTSE" report found that 39 of the UK's top companies still had no women directors.

"It's bad for women, bad for business and bad for the economy to waste the potential of half the UK's workforce," said Ms Freeman.

In Britain today, Dame Marjorie Scardino of Pearson is still the only female chief executive of a FTSE 100 company, while 3i's Baroness Hogg is the only female chairman.

Female-friendly stores

UK retailer Marks & Spencer topped the poll for the second year running, with 27% of its boardroom made up of female staff.

Food group Sainsbury was in second place with a 25% female board.

This was a significant improvement on its 27th position last year.

The survey has been running for four years and Ms Vinnicombe who co-authored the report said this year's findings were "particularly pleasing".

Pay up

However, female salaries are still failing to match those of their male counterparts.

Bottom of the league
Standard Chartered
Daily Mail & General Trust
Anglo American

Source: Cranfield
Fewer women at senior management levels partly explains why the pay gap in the UK between men and women is about 18%, based on an average hourly wage.

The Cranfield survey suggested that the average total earnings of FTSE 100 executives passed 1.5m this year.

"Gender parity would require a quantum leap in male attitudes to power-sharing and remuneration for women," said Ms Vinnicombe.


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