Women make up more than a third of all board members across 350 top UK companies for the first time

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For the first time more than a third of board members in the UK’s top 350 companies as a whole are women, new data has shown.

The figures show a continued increase in representation of women on the boards of the Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) 350 companies.

Despite the challenges faced by businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic, representation of women at the top of business has risen by 3.8% in the last year.

Denise Wilson OBE, Chief Executive of the Hampton Alexander Review, commented on the results: ”Recognising the significant impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on all business activities, it is encouraging to see the number of women at the top of British business continue to increase.

“This confirms the UK’s business-led voluntary approach is working and the benefits of diversity are being recognised, with business seeking more than ever those with fresh energy, new ideas and diverse perspectives.”

The FTSE 350 Index is a market capitalisation weighted stock market index made up of the constituents of the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 index companies by capitalisation which have their primary listing on the London Stock Exchange.

It is a combination of the FTSE 100 Index of the largest 100 companies and the FTSE 250 Index of the next largest 250.

While the FTSE 350 as a whole has met the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review’s target to make 33% of board members women individually, some businesses are still failing to meet the mark.

The latest data shows that 41% of FTSE 350 companies have not reached 33% woman representation, and Business Secretary Alok Sharma is now calling for all companies to take action to ensure they reach the mark ahead of the end of December 2020 target date.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma commented: “While I am pleased that the FTSE 350 as a whole has finally hit this historic landmark, more than 100 of the UK’s top companies have failed to meet the target.

“Research shows that diverse leadership teams are more innovative and make better decisions.

“As the UK economy continues to recover from coronavirus, increasing representation of women on boards represents a golden opportunity not only to rebuild, but build back better.”

Concerningly, the data has also revealed that 19 boards within the FTSE 250 remain ‘one and done’ boards, where companies appoint a single woman board member and go no further.

There is also one all-male board, this figure is down from 152 all-male boards in 2011.

Chris Cummings, Chief Executive of the Investment Association, commented: “The deadline for companies to meet the 33% target for gender diversity across their board and senior leadership teams is now fast approaching.

“Although good progress has been made with many companies recently appointing additional women to their boards and senior leadership teams, some laggards remain.

“On behalf of investors, I want to send a rallying cry to those companies that now is the time to take action and demonstrate real change.

“Diversity results in better decision-making and plays an essential role in a company’s long-term success and investors expect companies, at a minimum, to meet the target set.”

In 2016 the independent, Government sponsored Hampton-Alexander Review (the Review) set a series of recommendations to drive the representation of women at the top of FTSE 350 companies.

As part of the voluntary and business-led framework, the Review set a minimum 33% target for women on FTSE350 boards and in senior leadership two layers below the board.

In February 2020, the Investment Association and the Hampton-Alexander Review jointly wrote to around 40 companies in the FTSE 350 with one woman or less on their board, outlining concerns about the lack of gender diversity.

Companies were then asked to set out what actions their board is taking to ensure progress is made to meet the 2020 target of 33% representation of women.

Most companies responded positively, recognising the benefits of board diversity and in recent months have taken action to address the shortfall of women.

The process for gathering gender data in the next senior leadership tiers is an annual process, whereby companies submit their own gender data via a secure portal on the Hampton-Alexander Review website.

The portal will open on 2 November for companies to submit their leadership data for the final report, and will close on 30 November.

More details are available here