Melanie Richards
Melanie Richards is the vice-chair of KPMGKPMG

We have to be realistic about the percentage of women in 'top-dog' positions, one of the most prominent activists for gender equality in UK business has said. In an exclusive interview with IBTimes UK, 30% Club committee member and KPMG vice-chairwoman Melanie Richards said that the movement should be realistic about how to get to equality.

"I think we have to look back. In 2011 when the 25% target was just set up, it was actually considered very ambitious, you know, we have actually doubled the number of women on boards as a consequence of this initiative, which is a huge achievement," Richards said.

"I'm not going to tell you that I think we shouldn't be striving towards more gender equality, but I think we have to be realistic and proportionate about how we get there."

Richards works with FTSE 250 companies to get more women on boards of big firms. The 30% Club has worked together with Lord Davies' review, which aimed to get 25% female quota onto boards across the FTSE 350.

Davies and the 30% Club recently celebrated the fact that women now represent 26% of board members, causing the government to raise the target to 33% by 2020. Some say, however, that the numbers are still too low, considering the near 50:50 ratio between male and female population in the UK.

"I think government's involvement has been particularly important to this because it gives authority to the issue and shows how important it is," Richard said. "So, while I am also a big supporter of voluntary, business-led change, which is what this is all about, the reality is, without the targets we would have never made such progress."

Although Richards said it was wrong to be complacent with the current gender ratios, she did say that businesses should appreciate the progress made and realise that they should be realistic when it comes to setting targets.