A group of leading headhunting firms issued a voluntary code of conduct in response to the Lord Davies report on women on executive boards published last February as the six month Davies Committee review looms, the results where that at least 25 percent of FTSE 100 board members should be women by 2015.

According to research from the Cranfield School of Management, just under 14 percent of the FTSE boardrooms are made up of female directors.

Carmen Watson, one of the UK’s most successful female business leaders as Managing Director of Pertemps Recruitment Partnership, one of the UK’s largest independent recruitment agencies said, “As far as ‘taking steps’ goes the voluntary code does demonstrate a will to conform to Lord Davies’ report and if the UK wishes to avoid the imposition of quotas this will certainly help.

But this is not just about diversity and there is research from the US which clearly indicates there is a business case to have more women at top levels of management.

At the end of the day merit must be the overriding criteria and if the code assists in that process then it should be applauded. Although women make up half of the population and more than half of university graduates, they remain woefully under-represen ted at board level.”

The Davies report, due for a progress review after six months, said companies must make clear what steps they will take to increase female presence in the boardroom by September but stopped short of enforced quotas. It also said that all listed companies must disclose how many women are on their boards every year and explain their recruitment processes in their annual reports.

Boardroom quotas have been enforced in several European countries including Norway, Spain and France, where a law was passed earlier this year to guarantee that women fill 40 percent of board positions in the next six years. Earlier this month, data from the Cranfield School of Management showed FTSE 100 companies have recruited 23 women to their boards this year following Lord Davies’ report.

These recruits represent about 30 percent of total appointments this year, although only 13.9 percent of FTSE 100 board positions are currently occupied by women, and females make up just 8.7 percent of FTSE 250 board members.