THE glass ceiling is alive and well, and living in British boardrooms, according to a new report that shows the UK’s 50 largest listed companies have only 138 women on their boards.

Standard Ethics carried out the study, which puts consumer goods giant Unilever in top place. It has a board of 12 people, evenly split between men and women.

It is followed by Fife-based drinks group Diageo with six men and five women, Kingfisher, the DIY group, and fashion chain Next with a four:five split.

At the other end of the scale, mining group Glencore has only one woman on its eight-strong board.

The report comes after another earlier this month, which said there had been no increase in female participation on executive committees among FTSE 100 companies for two years.

Standard Ethics says the composition of company boards plays an important role in sustainability and corporate governance policies promoted by the European Union and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) covering professional, international and gender diversity.

Filippo Cecchi, its communications director, told The National: “Considering the positive trend compared to only few years back, you can say 30 per cent is in the right direction and 40 per cent closer to reaching equality. We expect companies to reach 50-50.

“I’m not sure why companies at the bottom do not do anything to promote equality. It could be something about the culture of the company or maybe the industry in which it operates.

“With no bills or laws to require gender quotas, companies have not shown interest in considering more women on boards.”

Cecchi added the EU had produced a corporate governance framework that highlighted the importance and value of gender diversity.

It said: “More diversity leads to more discussion, more monitoring and more challenges in the boardroom. It potentially results in better decisions but getting to those decisions may take time. Therefore, the commitment and support of the chairperson is indispensable.”