A development of great relevance to corporate governance in the UK over the last four years has been the increasing prominence of female faces in top companies’ boardrooms. Lord Davies of Abersoch’s annual report publishing the current state of gender diversity on FTSE boards, reveals that women now occupy almost a quarter of FTSE 100 board positions.

Lord Davies published his first report into Women on Boards in February 2011. Commissioned by Business Secretary Vince Cable, it set out a strategy for boosting the number of women occupying boardroom positions. All FTSE 350 companies were asked to set targets for how many women they expected to be present on their boards and executive committees by 2015.

A minimum 25% female representation on FTSE 100 boards was recommended by Lord Davies for 2015. Women’s representation on FTSE 250 boards was just 7.8% in 2011, rising to a mere 12.5% for FTSE 100 boards. The latest report, however, which is published alongside the Cranfield University School of Management’s Female FTSE Board report, indicates that 23.5% of those holding FTSE 100 board positions are now women.

Such a rise by almost double in four years is accompanied by a similarly pronounced rise in the representation of women on FTSE 250 boards, to 18%. Even just a year ago, only 15.6% of FTSE 250 board members were female. The FTSE 100 now has 263 women board members, accounting for 28.5% of non-executive directors and 8.6% of executive directors.

Along similar lines, 365 women now occupy FTSE 100 board positions, made up of 23% non-executive directors and 4.6% of executive directors. The FTSE 100 no longer has a single all-male board, although there remain 23 all-male boards among the FTSE 250.

Cable hailed the “enormous progress” made over the last four years by FTSE 100 boards in improving female representation, commenting: “We must celebrate this outstanding achievement and the change in culture that is taking hold at the heart of British business. The evidence is irrefutable: boards with a healthy female representation outperform their male-dominated rivals.

“I am confident we will reach our target this year, but our work is not complete. British business must keep its eye on the long game, as we strive to achieve gender parity. We have made good progress in the last 4 years, and if we continue this trend in the next parliament, I would expect to exceed a third of female representation by 2020.”