30% club sets new targets to boost gender and ethnic diversity on boards

30% Club calls for British businesses to go beyond decade-old targets in the next three years with new goals

The 30% Club, which over the last decade has been lobbying for at least a third of all boardroom seats to be held by women in UK PLCs, has set new targets for the next three years.

When it comes to the representation of women on boards, the proportion has slowly risen – growing to 32% by the end of March 2020, from less than 7% two decades ago – but 89.5% of the roles are non-executive positions, according to The DiversityQ FTSE 100 Board Diversity Report 2020.

The 30% Club says companies can do more to enhance the reputation of women, particularly woman of colour who currently only hold 3.8% of FTSE 100 boardroom seats, all of which are non-executive director roles.

New targets

And while the 30% Club remains committed to its existing mission, for at least 30% representation of all women on all boards and C-suites globally, its added three targets for the UK to reach by the end of 2023:

  • Beyond 30% representation of women on all FTSE 350 boards, and to include one person of colour by 2023

The 30% Club supports the Parker Review goals for at least one person of colour on every 350 board but also advocates for gender balance with half these seats going to women, creating 175 board seats for women of colour.

  • Beyond 30% representation of women on all FTSE 350 Executive Committees, and to include one person of colour by 2023

Again, the 30% Club would like half of these seats to go to creating 175 executive committee roles for women of colour.

  • Beyond 30% of all new FTSE 350 Chair appointments to go to women between now and 2023

When the 30% Club was established in 2010, women held only 9.5% of FTSE 350 board positions on average. Women now hold 32% of board seats on average in the UK, but over a third (127 companies) of individual FTSE 350 boards remain below the original 30% target.

And although it is heartening to see the gender gap on the boards of FTSE 100 companies narrowing, the figures mask the reality. There is still a paucity of females in executive roles: women hold only 34 out of 326 executive directorships (10.5%), according to the DiversityQ report.

Furthermore, women are still significantly under-represented as Chairs and CEOs and only hold 20% of FTSE 350 Executive Committees roles, confirming that more focus is needed to achieve inclusive cultures that retain female talent to management positions.


Time to accelerate

 Ann Cairns, Global Chair of the 30% Club, said: “There has clearly been good progress on gender diversity on boards over the last decade, and the 30% Club is proud to have contributed to this. However, further progress is needed and now is not the time to step off the gas.

“There is so much data showing that diverse companies outperform. That is why leading companies continue to push for more than 30% women on their boards and management teams, and diverse representation at all levels while publishing their pay gaps.

 “Disappointingly though, in 2020 leadership of our business world still doesn’t reflect our wider population and we are not harnessing the wonderful talents of people who think differently, have different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities and many other differences.”

Renewed focus

Cairns continued: “The Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with anti-racist protests that have been held in cities across the UK over the last month, in solidarity with US campaigners for Black Lives Matter – and renewed focus on race relations globally – are creating a much-needed focus on the inequalities in our societies. The glass ceiling is still pervasive, and women of colour face some of the greatest hurdles of all.

“It’s a time of change, a time of acceleration, where we can build a much better world for everyone. That’s why the 30% Club is looking beyond our original goals and reaching for equality. We want to be clear that we believe in a business world which includes ALL women and being explicit about women of colour in our UK goals.

“The pandemic is bringing about a global reset in business and society and now is the moment for CEOs to make brave and bold decisions which will really move the dial on diversity and inclusion. The companies that do so will emerge in the future with the best and brightest management teams sourced from a deep pool of diverse talent.

“The future is ours to shape, and I hope we take this chance to build a more inclusive business culture. One with few blind spots, one that has a purpose. One where stakeholder capitalism drives inclusion and finds women realising their full economic potential. Because a world that works better for all women works better for everyone.”

Change at the top

Ann Cairns has now assumed the role of Global Chair, following the transition over the last year during which Brenda Trenowden and Ann Cairns have acted as Global Co-Chairs. Brenda will now move into an advisory role and continue to be closely involved with the 30% Club Strategy Best Practices Working Group.

Ann Cairns added: “Under Brenda’s leadership, the 30% Club has gone from strength-to-strength. It expanded across the world, reached its target of 30% female representation on FTSE100 boards and continued to push hard for gender balance at senior management level and to promote inclusive culture across businesses.

“Brenda has also been instrumental in the work of the 30% Club Strategy Best Practice Group, established to help businesses incorporate gender diversity into company-wide strategy, products and services, and supply chains.

“Last Autumn the Group launched its Missing Millions campaign in conjunction with multiple FTSE100 and global companies. The 30% Club would like to sincerely thank Brenda for her outstanding contribution to the campaign over the last five years.”

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