More women than ever before are on the boards of the UK’s largest companies but they still have some way to go to meet the target of 33 per cent women by 2020, according to new data revealed today (27 June) to mark the halfway point of a government-backed review.
Figures released today by the Hampton-Alexander Review, which aims to ensure that talented women at the top of business are recognised, promoted and rewarded show 305 positions – 29 per cent of FTSE 100 board positions – are held by women, up from 12.5 per cent in 2011.
Launched in 2016, the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review set FTSE 350 businesses a target of having 33 per cent of all board and senior leadership positions held by women by the end of 2020. Today’s statistics show that if progress matches the same gains made over the last three years, then FTSE 100 companies are on track to meet the 2020 target.
However, today’s announcement also revealed that while the number of women on boards has increased to 25.5 per cent in FTSE 350 companies, around 40 per cent of all appointments need to go to women in the next 2 years for the FTSE 350 to achieve the 33 per cent target.
While some FTSE 350 companies are on track to meet the government-backed targets for women on boards, others are lagging behind. These have today been urged to emulate success stories of the 80-plus companies already at or beyond the 33 per cent such as hospitality company Whitbread, alcoholic drinks company Diageo, and fashion retailer Next.
Sir Philip Hampton, Chair of the Hampton-Alexander Review said:
It is good to see progress of women on boards continuing with the FTSE100 likely to hit the 33 per cent target in 2020. However, nearly half of all available board appointments in the run up to 2020 now need to go to women if the FTSE 350 are to meet the target.
Far too many companies still have no women – or only one woman – on their board.
Meanwhile, progress in executive and leadership positions is eagerly awaited as the portal for companies to submit their gender data opens today.
We’ll be analysing the data on women in executive leadership roles and hope to see increasing numbers of women joining Executive Committees, or reporting to ExCo members, in the FTSE 350.
Minister for Women Victoria Atkins said:
This government is absolutely committed to increasing diversity in business, and we are leading the way in supporting the work of the Hampton Alexander Review to make sure FTSE companies support and develop their female talent pipeline.
Women are good for business: they bring valuable perspectives and experiences to the decision-making process. FTSE 350 companies need to do their bit and accelerate progress. There is no excuse for having an all-male board.
The online portal for FTSE 350 companies to submit their 2018 gender leadership data also opens today. Progress made on women in executive and leadership roles will be revealed in November.
The Investment Association (IA) is working with investors to achieve better gender representation in the boardroom. In April 2018, the IA and the Hampton-Alexander Review wrote to 35 FTSE 350 companies who were falling short on their gender diversity targets.
Last month, the team behind the Hampton-Alexander Review revealed shocking explanations from sexist FTSE bosses for not appointing women to their boards, which showed that some companies are still refusing to move with the times.
Tackling the gender pay gap is part of the Industrial Strategy, government’s long-term plan to build a Britain fit for the future, with the ambition to help businesses create better, higher-paying jobs and ensure everyone can be successful in the workplace.
Bridging the gender pay gap could add £150 billion to the UK economy by 2025. Many companies reporting their gender pay gap earlier this year explained that the pay gap was due to insufficient women in senior roles, and/or a predominance of women in lower paid work. Ensuring women are selected in more equal numbers for senior roles, significantly helps to reduce the pay gap.
Under new laws, all companies with 250 or more employees were required to report their gender pay gaps. Over 10,000 public, private and voluntary sector businesses have now reported.
Amanda Mackenzie, chief executive at Business in the Community, said:
“The debate about women on boards and the pipeline remains muddled. We can’t improve what we don’t measure and the good news is now there are more women on our boards than ever before. We must now apply the same voracity to the pipeline. Whether it’s recruitment, appraisals, promotion or experience of a P&L, let’s be rigorous in every part of the process and help talented women starting out today get to the C-suite tomorrow. It’s not either/or, it’s both.
“And let’s not leave men out of the equation. Ultimately, if we don’t achieve equality both at work and at home, nothing will ever change. Both men and women need support from their employers to share caring responsibilities.”
Chloe Chambraud, gender equality director, Business in the Community, said:
“The lack of women on boards is just the tip of the iceberg and even though we have made progress, employers must not see reaching the target set by the Hampton-Alexander review as ‘job done’.
“The conversation has been overly focused on the board level but should not overlook the pipeline issue. Fewer women than men are coming through to the top level of organisations because of bias, lack of access to flexible working, difficulties in balancing care and work and lack of career progression.
“If employers are serious about getting more diversity at the top and want to avoid losing the talented women they have invested in, they need to set out a clear action plan to address the gap at all levels of the organisation. This includes setting public targets, closely monitoring the proportion of women, encouraging diversity in applications and introducing transparency around board appointments and progression processes.
“It also means supporting women and men with caring responsibilities so that they are not forced to choose between their career and their family life. Finally, it is worth noting that board diversity is not just about gender and we need to broaden the conversation to include women from diverse backgrounds.”