Almost half of new directors are women

A business expert has welcomed figures which suggest that nearly half of all first time directors appointed at Britain's FTSE 350 companies last year were women.

Beatrice Bartlay, the founder and managing director of 2B Interface, said that more must be done to further improve the 47% figure which was recorded in 2012, according to research by Korn/Ferry Whitehead Mann.

The figure is still much bigger than in 2007, when just 11% of first time directors were female.

Bartlay, who set up staffing agency 2B, said that the increase in female appointments is a big step towards a gender balanced boardroom. She said it is a key time for top employers to make it clear to society that women in powerful jobs are taken seriously, but added that there is a long way to go before true balance is achieved.

The Government has set a target of 25% female representation of FTSE 100 boards by 2015 and has threatened to impose quotas on companies should the goal not be met.

Bartlay said: "Women already face increased barriers to the top than men through childcare costs and responsibilities and a lack of female role models. FTSE organisations in particular need to make a conscious effort to dispel inherent inequality, and the only way of doing this is by pushing forward with the initiative to bring more women on to boards, be that via quotas or other means.

"These figures are encouraging, but firms must not become complacent about this issue, and allow it to be neglected once discussion has died down."

Bartlay said a female perspective can often bring value in the form of a company's performance and profit margins but said that businesses need to reject "negative attitudes" surrounding the misconception that a woman cannot perform in the workplace if she also has a family.

She added: "FTSE 100 firms must cast a wider net to bring in talent, and promote from within to nourish internally too - just a small change in attitude can go a long way to improving the diversity of a company.

"There are many businesswomen who have proven that they are just as capable of running the show as men. Let this be the trigger which shatters the glass ceiling preventing women from rising to the top spots within the UK's best businesses."

Copyright Press Association 2013