All aboard – almost: Female representation in the FTSE 350

The number of all-male boards in the UK’s largest listed companies is now zero, according to the latest figures from BoardEx and the 30% Club.

Older woman writing on board
The achievement of the target set out in the Hampton-Alexander Review – the final report of which is due later this week, just ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March – is the second time the goal has been reached.
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In May 2020, the government-backed review reported the milestone had been achieved, only for all-male boards to return to the FTSE 350 a month later.

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Qualified success despite Covid-19 

Welcoming FTSE 350 boards’ progress, Ann Cairns, global chair of the 30% Club and executive vice-chair of Mastercard, said: “The eradication of all-male boards across Britain’s 350 biggest companies is cause for celebration, particularly at a time when Covid-19 threatens progress in women’s equality. “Time and again research has shown companies with diverse boardrooms and senior leadership outperform their peers. Simply put, diversity is good for business.”

Action needed to protect ‘fragile progress’

However, data shows that companies must continue to push for progress to achieve the full benefit.“Last year’s fleeting experience of their disappearance across the FTSE 350 proves how fragile progress in the UK’s corporate gender diversity remains,” continued Ann Cairns. “There is still lots more work to be done to make sure all-male boards remain a thing of the past.”The 30% Club data from people intelligence provider BoardEx further finds the 33% target for executive committee-level representation – currently at 21.5% – has been missed. The Hampton-Alexander Review set a minimum 33% target for women on FTSE 350 Boards and in the two layers of leadership below the board, the Executive Committee and the Direct Reports to the Executive Committee, by the end of 2020.This suggests business leaders and employers have much more to do if they are to ensure women have solid routes to progression and occupy influential roles like chair, CFO and CEO. And that female executive pay matches that of their male counterparts.  

Inclusion across the board 

BoardEx data also reveals that only around 3% of female board-level roles are held by women of Black, Asian or minority ethnic heritage in the UK’s 350 largest listed companies.This figure comes as early findings from recruitment consultant Green Park’s Business Leaders Index reveals that for the first time in the six years of analysis, there are no Chairs, CEOs or CFOs who are Black in the FTSE 100. Commenting earlier this month, Trevor Phillips, Chair of Green Park, said: “These figures put some flesh on the bone of last year’s [Black Lives Matter] protests. We know there is no shortage of qualified candidates to fill these roles if companies are willing to look. Yet the snowy peaks of British business remain stubbornly white.“We cannot go back to business as usual. It is time that shareholders, consumers and employees start questioning whether Black Lives Matter is just rhetoric rather than reality.”

International Women’s Day – choose to challenge

All these data show the scale of the challenge for companies as calls increase for social equity in all areas of life post-pandemic. This is critical time for embedding the progress made so far on gender equality.   As Relocate Global’s annual Think Women IWD celebrations and year-round Think Women resource centre show, we all have a role in making a difference and pushing for progress; particularly so this year as individuals and employers look to build back better and address the challenges. 

Coverage of previous years' Think Women IWD events

Wherever you are in the world, please do join us at our virtual event on 5 March to think about how you can be a force for making sure the hard-won gains for females’ life chances aren’t lost.We are at a pivotal point to build a collaborative and supportive network round the world that is inclusive and helps women to maximise their talent and ambitions whatever their stage of life. 

Think Women is here to support women to flourish and help shape inclusive workplaces. To register for a place please email or call +44 (0)1892 891334.

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