UK companies are hitting the gender target 3 years ahead of schedule: 40.2% of board jobs in the country’s top listed companies are now held by women
A ‘radical shift’ is coming to British business after companies on the FTSE 350 hit a key gender balance target three years earlier.
The proportion of board jobs held by women at the country’s largest listed companies rose by almost 3 percentage points last year to 40.2%, according to the FTSE Women Leaders Review, supported by the government.
It means the 40% target has been met three years ahead of the 2025 deadline. Campaigners hailed it as a ‘watershed moment’ for UK business – but called for even more to be done.
Sea change: The proportion of board jobs held by women at the country’s largest listed companies rose nearly 3 percentage points last year to 40.2%
However, there are only nine female CEOs in the FTSE 100 – a number described as “frankly appalling” – and nine companies in the FTSE 350 still have all-male executive committees. These committees are responsible for the daily management of the company.
The nine without any women on their committee are Aston Martin, Savills, Plus 500, Discover IE, CMC, Capricorn Energy, Molten Ventures, BBGI and Bellway.
Ministers said this underscored the need for further progress despite the 40% target being met.
Kemi Badenoch, Secretary of State for Business and Trade and Minister for Women and Equalities, said: “I am delighted to see that companies in the FTSE 350 have exceeded this target, which shows that change does not always require top-down interventions, but can occur when everyone is pushing in the same direction.
“This progress is welcome and I urge companies to maintain this momentum to achieve a better balance in leadership positions as well as in boardrooms.”
Just over a decade ago, 152 of the FTSE 350 companies had no women on their board.
Today there is at least one female director in every company on the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 – which together make up the FTSE 350 – and the vast majority have three or more.
Companies such as Greggs, Severn Trent and Vodafone have made particular progress in this area, leading the way with more women than men on their boards, according to the review.
Burberry, Next and Sainsbury’s are among the companies with the highest percentage of women in leadership positions, including on their executive committees, which support chief executives and the board.
“With companies reaching the target of 40% women on boards well ahead of schedule, it is clear that the momentum is on their side and that step change is ahead,” the report said. .
The latest figures put the UK in second place behind France for best female representation at the top.
In the 40 largest French public companies, 44% of board positions are held by women.
The UK has opted for voluntary action by companies, but France has imposed strict quotas, which force the biggest companies to push for equality at work.
Denise Wilson, chief executive of the FTSE Women Leaders Review, told the Mail that although there has been a ‘complete revolution’ in recent years, ‘the tone is set at the top’.
She said: “We still have a long way to go, although we have made progress in moving this topic of equality beyond just the fringe conversation about water coolers.”
There are still just nine CEOs in the FTSE 100, including Emma Walmsley at GSK, Alison Rose at NatWest and Liv Garfield at Severn Trent.
Sue Vinnicombe, professor of women and leadership at Cranfield School of Management, Bedford, described the number as ‘frankly appalling’, adding: ‘For real change to happen, women just need to be in the big decision-making positions. of CEO and Chair.’
MP Maria Caulfield, Minister for Women, said: ‘Ensuring the right people are in positions of responsibility is not only morally right, it is good business decision.’