Women make up nearly 40% of FTSE 100 top table roles in UK boardrooms

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Almost 40% of UK FTSE (Financial Times Stock Exchange) 100 board positions are now held by women, putting the UK second in international rankings for board representation, according to a new report by the government-backed FTSE Women Leaders Review.

The Review monitors women’s representation in 24,000 positions on FTSE 350 Boards and in leadership teams of the UK’s biggest companies, building on the success of the previous Hampton-Alexander and Davies Reviews.

Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, commented on the announcement: “It is excellent to see the progress being made, but we know there is more to be done.

“This government is committed to levelling up all parts of our country, working to tackle inequality and promoting equality of opportunity, including at senior level, so everyone can thrive.

“We will shortly put forward a range of measures to advance equality for women at work, increasing opportunity, and tackling the issues that are holding women back as we look to ensure that everyone can reach their full potential.”

According to the Review, the UK has progressed from fifth to second in the international rankings at FTSE 100 level, leapfrogging countries such as Norway, which enforces a mandatory quota system on businesses.

The number of women in Chair roles across the FTSE 350 rose to 48, up from 39 in 2020, and there has been a significant decrease in the number of ‘One & Done’ boards to just six this year, as British businesses take action to diversify their boardrooms.

UK businesses have also continued to drive progress in their leadership teams in 2021, despite challenges faced in responding to COVID-19. There are over 700 more women in Leadership roles in the FTSE 350 companies this year, increasing women’s representation to 31.5%, an increase of 2% year-on-year.

While there has been ‘remarkable progress’ at boardroom level, the report also shines a light on areas where there is still more to do.

For example, only 1 in 3 leadership roles and around 25% of all executive committee roles are held by women and there are very few women in the CEO role. Equally, there are still many companies yet to hit the former 33% target set by the Hampton Alexander Review.

To ensure British companies continue to raise their game and open up opportunities to everyone, the FTSE Women Leaders Review report has set out four new recommendations:

  • The voluntary target for FTSE 350 Boards and for FTSE 350 Leadership teams is increased to a minimum of 40% women’s representation by the end of 2025.
  • FTSE 350 companies should have at least one women in the Chair, Senior Independent Director role on the Board and/or one woman in the Chief Executive Officer or Finance Director role by the end of 2025.
  • Key stakeholders should continue to set best practice guidelines or use alternative mechanisms to encourage any FTSE 350 Board that has not yet achieved the previous 33% target for the end of 2020, to do so.
  • The scope of the Review is extended beyond FTSE 350 companies to include the largest 50 private companies in the UK by sales.

These recommendations aim to increase gender balance further, bringing new focus to the appointment of women at the highest levels of British business, particularly in those companies that are still lagging behind.

The latest report is available on the FTSE Women Leaders-website.