Aviva admits work to do on boosting women executives

Aviva logo. Norwich Union. Marble Hall. Surrey House, Surrey Street, Norwich.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYCOPY

Aviva logo. Norwich Union. Marble Hall. Surrey House, Surrey Street, Norwich.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYCOPY:FOR:EDP BUSINESS© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2010 (01603 772434) - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

Aviva has admitted it has more work to do in boosting the number of women executives after ranking low in a study into FTSE100 boards.

Norwich Union building on Surrey Street, Norwich. Marble Hall / Surrey House.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYCOPY

Norwich Union building on Surrey Street, Norwich. Marble Hall / Surrey House.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYCOPY:FOR:EDP property© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2008 (01603 772434) - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

A report by Cranfield University out today ranked the Norwich-based insurance giant joint 87th out of 100, with only Gay Huey Evans on its 12-strong board of directors.

The report found that wider progress on appointing more women on to company boards had stalled, suggesting that firms have become complacent in tackling the issue.

The annual Cranfield Female FTSE board study showed that in the six months from last March the pace of change was 'extremely encouraging', with 44pc of new appointments going to women, and 36pc in companies in the FTSE 250.

But the levels were short-lived, dropping to 26pc and 29pc in the past six months, showing a 'considerable gap' from the recommendation of having 25pc of women on boards by 2015, made by a Government-commissioned review led by Lord Davies of Abersoch.

Aviva - which featured as a case study in the report - said it had really began to focus on gender balance in 2010, when its annual employee survey results showed a significant gap in engagement between senior men and senior women.

That same year, it was reported in the FTSE Female board report that the gender gap in executive director roles was even more significant than the gap among non-executive director roles. Aviva sat very near the bottom of the rankings with only one woman (6.7%) on its group executive committee.

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It said that two and a half years after the report four of its 15 group executive directors, or 28.5pc, were women.

But the group, which is undergoing a significant restructuring project, said that its female representation had been impacted, declining in recent months as it was 'refreshing' its Board of Directors.

But it said: 'We remain fully committed to realising our goal of 30pc female board representation by the end of 2015.

'Aviva has more work to do. Since the original Female FTSE report, we have invested in a range of initiatives that strengthen the pipeline of women into senior management and increase the visibility of gender balance at all levels of the organisation.'

The group added: 'Change is slow, but we've made a strong start. We're guided by our belief that people perform better when they can be themselves. That's why we're committed to this journey, and we're learning more each day from our own efforts and from the good work of organisations across the UK and internationally.'

The Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders report said there was a 33pc gap between the current rate and the recommended level.

There are 194 female-held directorships, involving 169 women, in 93 of the FTSE 100 boardrooms, equivalent to 17.3pc of the total, compared with 15pc a year ago, said the report, leaving seven with all-male boards.

Dr Ruth Sealy from Cranfield School of Management, who co-authored the report, said: 'Lord Davies' target for FTSE 100 companies is still in sight but only if the rate of new appointments going to women regains momentum promptly.'

'Only a quarter (25%) of FTSE 100 companies have already achieved the target and the drop in the last six months is worrying.

'It is disappointing to see that women from outside the 'corporate mainstream', including entrepreneurs, academics and civil servants are still not being considered for FTSE board positions.'