The authors warned that while many companies had launched high-profile diversity drives including measures such as unconscious bias training, it was having limited real-life impact. “There is no doubt that there is a tremendous amount of activity around gender diversity in many of the FTSE 350 companies – beautiful websites, great policies, innovative women’s leadership programmes and Unconscious Bias training available to all employees. Yet these count for nothing unless targets are truly embedded in the organisation.”It recommended that managers who do not meet targets for gender quotas are “penalised”. Mentoring programmes were also suggested as a way to encourage the promotion of more women, with some interviewees highlighting the benefit of having male as well as female mentors. One woman said senior male colleagues “were more likely to give direct advice ‘why not go for it’, if they believed the competence was there, ‘just do it’”. Advice from female colleagues, on the other hand, “was more likely to be couched in more cautious terms, focusing on framing, positioning, proving before putting oneself forward.”Interviewees also said that senior teams were less likely to take a chance on women by promoting them.”Our prior research on inclusive talent management has shown that men are more likely to be judged on ‘potential’, whereas women need to have proved their capability,” the report added. FTSE firms have been accused of a “woeful” lack of progress as the number of women in boardrooms has dropped by more than a fifth.A report by Cranfield University found that there are 30 women in full-time executive roles at FTSE 250 firms, a drop from 38 last year.Women make up 6.4 per cent of full-time executives, the report found, with five of the 30 holding CEO positions and 19 holding chief financial officer positions.”It is imperative that FTSE 250 companies examine their female talent pipeline, identify the challenges and commit to improving this woeful situation,” the report said. –– ADVERTISEMENT ––The number of boards where all positions were held by men has risen from eight to 10, the report added. The report also found that the position of businesswomen in the FTSE 100 has remained unchanged for a fourth year, with 9.7 per cent of leadership positions held by women. In the FTSE Women on Boards Report, which has been produced for 20 years, academics said it was “disappointing to see a slowing of pace in appointing women to boards, together with a slight increase of all male boards to ten.”This must be addressed urgently and again calls for renewed efforts from Chairs and search firms.” Fiona Hathorn, managing director of Women on Boards UK, which helps women reach senior roles, said: “With the number of executive women actually falling in the FTSE 250 it is clear to me that there is very little effective and collaborative leadership happening in the UK regardless of the number of women on the board.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.