Largest UK private firms expected to hit gender representation targets

The UK's private firms are now facing pressure to increase gender parity at board-level

The UK’s private businesses are facing pressure to match their listed counterparts on gender parity and appoint more women to senior leadership positions.

Gender representation in private firms

Targets set by the FTSE Women Leaders Review for gender representation in FTSE 350 firms will now apply to the largest 50 private companies in the UK by sales, including John Lewis partnership, JCB, Dyson, and private equity-owned firms.

The Government-backed business-led organisation published recommendations that set a target for FTSE 350 firms to increase female representation to at least 40% of both boards and leadership teams by the end of 2025.

They also set a voluntary goal for firms to have a woman in at least one of four key positions: board chair, senior independent director, chief executive or finance director.

Their data shows that most large listed UK firms are close to hitting the 40% target for female representation on boards, which currently stands at an average of 39.1% across the FTSE 100, 36.8% across the FTSE 250, and 37.6% for the FTSE 350.

Despite this improvement, firms still lack gender parity at the very top, according to the review, which found that women filled 31.5% of FTSE 350 leadership roles in 2021, up 2% from 2020. Women held only a quarter of positions on executive committees, with just 18 female chief executives and 49 female finance directors across the FTSE 350.

The review has also identified FTSE 350 firms falling behind on senior female representation; 72 firms are failing to hit the existing target for women to fill 33% of board positions. Consequently, the review has made a new recommendation for investors and other stakeholders to pressure these businesses.

The FTSE Women Leaders Review publication follows the close of the five-year Hampton Alexander equality review, which ended in 2021, and concluded that its target for women to fill a third of board positions had been achieved on average across the FTSE 350.

New chairs will be announced for the review’s management team following the vacancies left after British businesswoman Dame Helen Alexander‘s death in 2017, who was the first female president of the Confederation of British Industry, and Sir Philip Hampton, the former Chair of GlaxoSmithKline and the Hampton-Alexander Review, who stood down last February.

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