Female CEOs in the UK: Nothing more than cheap talk?

Presumably few big companies operating in the EMEA region would deny women the talent to lead a company or serve as a CEO. In fact, most companies are verbally active in the field of gender equality, in some countries additionally stimulated by quotas. Strangely enough the number of women in leading positions is still smaller than it should be after years of Gender statements and programmes. A recent study published in the Economic Journal questions the official stance of many companies as cheap talk or tokenism, at least for British cases. The percentage of female CEOs on the boards of UK’s biggest FTSE 350 companies increased from about 2% in 1996 to 8% in 2010. The study uses this result to claim a lack of process but other experts recognise a clear trend in the right direction.
The researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh and Sheffield detected a relation that might explain the underperformance of British companies concerning gender equality in boardrooms. The probability to appoint a female director amounts to 20% if the post was vacated by another woman before; however, if a man had held the post the likelihood fell to 10%. Obviously the gender of the predecessor co-determines whether a woman can get a position or not. At least male and female CEOs are paid equal wages, while for non-executive directors pay gaps of about 8% can still be found. Embarrassingly, the reports says that women have at best a 20% chance of being made a non-executive director.
UK companies are not bound to any national quota, in 2011 the 100 biggest companies (FTSE 100) agreed on a voluntary 25%-target and currently reach a female share of about 19%.