Target for women in FTSE 100 board roles hit ahead of year-end deadline

Women now hold a third of FTSE 100 board roles, says Hampton-Alexander Review but smaller companies struggle.

One in three board roles at FTSE 100 companies is now held by a woman, according to the latest Hampton-Alexander Review.

According to the report, 349 women currently sit on boards at the UK’s biggest companies, which sees the Government backed initiative to encourage gender equality hit its target almost a year early.

Speaking to the BBC, Denise Wilson, CEO, Hampton-Alexander Review, said: “33% is a very good start, but as we can see, we have a lot further to go before we see a good gender balance in the leadership of British business.”

FTSE progress

While the FTSE 100 has made progress the FTSE 250 has trailed in meeting the figure set by the Government for 2020. In total, about 28.6 % of FTSE 100 leadership roles are held by women, falling to 27.9% of FTSE 250 roles.

The Review also highlighted the shortage of female executives and chief executives. Just 15% of FTSE 100 finance directors are women, for example, while there are only five female CEOs in the FTSE 100.

The Hampton-Alexander review set the end of 2020 as the deadline for FTSE 350 companies to voluntarily appoint women to a third of board positions. Less than a decade ago, women held just 12.5% of board seats.

CIPD view

Dr Jill Miller, diversity and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said: “Reaching the target set in the Hampton-Alexander review a year early shows strides are being made with female representation in UK boardrooms.

“But beneath the headline figures, there is still much work needed – not least with addressing the imbalance between female representation in executive roles compared with non-executive positions. Women are still underrepresented in operational roles which have day-to-day influence on the organisation culture and decision-making power.

“Occupational segregation is also clearly apparent in the top jobs and needs to be addressed through long-term investment in talent pipelines, as well as through identifying the barriers preventing women reaching those top leadership positions.”

“Furthermore, it is evident that not all women are benefitting equally from the progress made. Earlier this week, the Parker Review highlighted the lack of ethnic diversity at the top of organisations. Businesses need to step up their efforts to create more inclusive and fair organisations, scrutinising whether their people management practices and their organisation culture truly supports diversity and inclusion.”

Financial Reporting Council

As part of the strengthened UK Corporate Governance Code, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) expects companies to clearly set out how they plan to develop their diversity pipeline with much improved reporting, including progress towards any measurable targets.  

The FRC’s recent review of early adopters reporting against the Code found far too many had limited reporting on diversity, which included how they plan to tackle the lack of women in senior leadership positions. Those companies that did report well had clear plans to meet diversity targets – beyond just gender – and understood the long-term value diversity brings.

Sir Jon Thompson, FRC CEO, said: “Successful and sustainable businesses should reflect the views of shareholders and wider society, with an understanding of the value greater diversity brings at both board level and throughout the business.

“Given the clear benefits greater diversity brings we expect to see improved reporting going forward to meet the Hampton-Alexander targets.”
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