The Hampton-Alexander Review, an independent body analysing female business representation, has called for more women to be appointed as senior leaders in its 2019 update.
The penultimate review shows that, with the 2020 deadline approaching for women to hold at least a third of FTSE board positions, companies have made significant progress in addressing gender diversity, since the Hampton-Alexander Review was launched in 2011.
What the numbers say
Still, although progress has been made, Sir Philip Hampton, chair of the review, said that the number of women in senior leadership roles below board level is “still a long way” from reaching targets.
He added that at least half of all appointments made this year will have to go to female candidates for targets to be met. The report said a “step-change is needed” to match these forecasts.
Data shows that 32.4% of all FTSE 100 board positions are held by women, up from 30.2% last year, while 29.6% of all FTSE 250 roles are held by women, up from 24.9% last year.
“Not all companies are making the same efforts”, claims the report, highlighting that there is an “obvious” gap between those working to improve gender balance and those “doing little”.
Denise Wilson OBE, Chief Executive, Hampton-Alexander Review said: “There are over 900 women now serving on FTSE 350 boards, providing an ever-increasing pool of women with substantial board experience, yet only 25 women have been appointed into the Chair role, even fewer as women CEOs and showing little sign of change.
“Strong foundations have been laid and significant progress has been made since the journey began in earnest in 2011. The very senior jobs were always going to be the hardest of challenges, however, a stronger focus is now required at every stage of the appointment process to address the reasons why top jobs aren’t going to women.”
Mr Hampton said: “This is the penultimate Hampton-Alexander report and we enter our final year with great momentum behind us. If this progress continues into 2020, our targets for women on boards will be met.
“Whilst this is a key indicator of change at the top, strengthening the number of women in executive positions is critical to achieving long-term gender balance.”
The review said a core priority for 2020 is to further reduce the number of company boards with just one female director present.
CBI Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn, said: “Businesses are building on last year’s progress and continuing to increase diversity in the boardroom. It’s particularly good news that the target of women holding a third of board positions is likely to be met ahead of schedule.
“The benefits of a diverse boardroom have been proven many times, from improved decision making to increased profits. If all-male boards are to become a thing of the past, firms must not take their foot off the pedal.
“But while firms are speeding ahead in the boardroom, they are making less progress on the executive pipeline. We are still seeing too few women in senior leadership positions, whether as CEO or running divisions.
“Heading into 2020, all firms should ensure they have diverse shortlists and that they’re doing everything possible to support people from all walks of life in their careers, from ground floor to boardroom.”