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Thursday, 13 November, 1997, 10:52 GMT
Still no room at top for women
The number of women directors in large British companies has almost doubled over the past four years - but women still hold few of the top jobs in industry, a new report shows.

Just 5% of the 2,000 director appointments in British companies listed in 'The Times Top 200' are held by women.

But the total of 109 is almost twice as many as in 1993, according to research by Opportunity 2000, a business-led campaign to increase prospects for women.

Lady Howe, chairwoman of Opportunity 2000, said the business case for hiring and retaining women was obviously hitting home with many employers.

But women still had some way to go: "81% of women directors are the only woman on the board, and without a significantly higher number of women at the top decision-making levels, it will be hard to achieve the desired culture change towards equal opportunities."

The report shows that women are more likely to hold non-executive rather than executive jobs on company boards.

The executive role is more senior and usually appointed from within the company, whereas the non-executive post is generally held by an "outsider" appointed for a limited term.

The research also confirms that the areas where women are most likely to make progress in top management are still largely the retail and banking sectors, as opposed to the City or engineering sectors. Only one of the UK's 18 investment trusts has a woman on its board.

The report says: "Clearly measures need to be identified and implemented by UK businesses that ensure talented women, as well as men, are reaching their full potential.

"What we can learn from those companies which have been successful is vital if the disadvantage faced by women is to be removed."

The findings compare with a survey of US companies by New York-based research organisation Catalyst, which revealed that women hold just over 10% of director appointments in the top 500 boardrooms in America.

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