The original social network – the “old boys’ club” – is being blamed for preventing women getting into the boardroom in Britain's top companies.

A new study led by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has found that nearly a third of the UK’s biggest companies rely on personal networks when recruiting new board members. This means companies are not advertising board positions, and the diversity of candidates is being limited.

“Our top boards still remain blatantly male and white,” Laura Carstensen, EHRC commissioner, said.

The study highlights the male dominance of UK boards: more than 60% fail to get to a 25% share for female directors.

A study from index provider MSCI looks at global gender diversity on boards. It estimates that based on current "business as usual" trends, women won’t make up 30% of company boards until 2027.

Image: MSCI

The EHRC report highlights the importance of gender diversity, with Laura Carstensen stating: “The best companies are showing that having talented women on their boards is boosting both performance and fairness.”

The study recognizes that progress has been made and is encouraged to see an increase in the number of women in board positions, a number that is greater now than ever before.

The report’s recommendations include stopping the use of personal networks for the appointment of new board members, and instead widely publicizing roles to improve the diversity of the candidate pool.