Equality and Diversity

Women on FTSE boards rises by 50% in five years

More than a third of FTSE 350 board positions are now held by women, according to new data from the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review

More than a third (34.3%) of FTSE 350 board positions are now held by women, with the number of women on boards increasing by 50% over the last five years, according to the final report from the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review.

The review, which reveals a “dramatic shift” in representation at the highest levels of British business, was launched in 2016 to encourage UK-listed companies to appoint more women to their boards and senior leadership positions.

While men “still dominate” in the upper ranks of top firms, the review has seen “remarkable progress” among FTSE companies over the last five years. In total, 220 of the FTSE 350 companies now meet the Hampton-Alexander target of having at least 33% of their board positions held by women, with the figure having quadrupled from just 53 in 2015, and there are no longer any all-male boards in the FTSE 350.

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The FTSE 250 also reached the review’s final target of women making up 33% of boards in December 2020, following the FTSE 100 and FTSE 350, which achieved the milestone in February and September 2020 respectively.

The figures also show an increase in women in wider senior leadership roles, with Hampton-Alexander’s “top-down approach” leading to “new ideas and diverse perspectives that come from more women in senior positions”.

In addition, the number of ‘one and done’ boards, with only one woman, has fallen from 116 in 2015 to just 16. Moving forward, the government said all businesses should be “pushing themselves to move beyond tokenism, and ensure even more women are getting into the highest ranks”.

Nonetheless, while women make up more than a third of those in senior leadership positions, the review found that significant progress “remains to be made” on the highest executive roles, such as CEO.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “FTSE companies have made incredible progress in recent years, but we cannot become complacent in building a society where everyone has an opportunity to get on and succeed.

“As we look to build back better from the pandemic, it’s important businesses keep challenging themselves to use all the talents of our workforce and open up the top ranks for more, highly-accomplished women.”

Hampton-Alexander Review chair, Sir Philip Hampton said: “There’s been excellent progress for women leaders in business over the last 10 years or more, with boards and shareholders determined to see change. 

“The progress has been strongest with non-executive positions on boards, but the coming years should see many more women taking top executive roles. That’s what is needed to sustain the changes made.”

Hampton-Alexander Review CEO, Denise Wilson added: “The lack of women in the boardroom is where it all started a decade ago, and it’s the area where we have seen the greatest progress. 

“But now, we need to achieve the same – if not more – gains for women in leadership. The supply of capable, experienced women is full-to-over-flowing. It is now for business to fully-utilise a talent pool of educated, experienced women, to their own benefit and that of the UK economy.”

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