Sex and Power 2022: women hold less than third of top jobs

An index tracking the progress of female representation at senior levels in UK business shows the pace of change is ‘glacial’. It also highlights the scale of ethnicity gaps.

Picture of female judge with gavel and scales of justice imbalanced in the background
The Sex and Power Index 2022 compiled by The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality and women’s rights at work, finds men still outnumber women by two to one in positions of power.While some sectors show solid progress towards more equal representation in the Index, others, like sport, have revealed a progressive decline in the number of female sport governing body chairs (15% in 2022, from 20% in 2020) and CEOs (19% in 2022, from 21% in 2020).  Women’s representation has improved in a minority of key areas. The Scottish Parliament, London Assembly, Combined Authorities and Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs) have all made gains towards equality since the last Sex and Power Index was published in 2020.
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Women of colour missing from leadership positions

Commenting on the Index’s findings, Jemima Olchawski, CEO, The Fawcett Society said: “The people who hold the top jobs in our society have enormous power to shape our democracy, culture and economy. Yet men continue to dominate most senior roles. That’s not only bad for the women who miss out on opportunities to thrive, but it’s bad for us all, as we miss out on women’s talent, skills and perspectives.”“What is most alarming about today’s data is that it shows an unacceptable lack of women of colour in senior positions. It is appalling that in 2022, women of colour are missing in leadership positions from some of our key institutions and organisations. And we’re all losing out as a result.“Too few women in positions of power is one of the causes of the gender pay gap and the complete lack of women of colour in top jobs in many sectors also feeds the ethnicity pay gap. It is essential that this Government introduces intersectional ethnicity pay gap reporting and gets to grips with inequalities in our society that hold back women of colour.”

Imbalance across the board

Key findings from the Sex and Power Index 2022 include: 
  • Parliaments and Politics: The last two Westminster elections have seen scant progress, the proportion of female MPs moving from 32% in 2017 to 34% at the 2019 election.  
  • Business: Women remain just 8% of FTSE 100 CEOs, and none are women of colour.  
    Women hold 37.7% of non-executive directorships, but just 13.7% of executive directorships. 
  • Education: Women account for 65% of secondary school teachers, but only 40% of headteachers. Just 6% of those headteachers are women from ethnic minority backgrounds.  
  • Media: The proportion of women editing national newspapers has risen to 42%, whilst the number of female political editors remains low at 12%.  
  • Cabinet: The proportion of women in Cabinet has fallen back to just over a quarter (26%) and only 24% of Cabinet Committee positions are held by women 
  • Local Government: Women make up 35% of councillors across England, 22% of local council leaders, and 26% of Police and Crime Commissioners. There are now greater numbers of women on combined authority boards - 37%, and women make up 52% of London Assembly members. 
  • Civil Service: Of the 16 government departments run by permanent secretaries, six are run by women and none are run by women of colour. Women’s representation among the Civil Service Board stands at 45% women. 
  • The Law: Women make up 27% of Court of Appeal judges and 30% of High Court judges. There are just two female Supreme Court Justices and no women of colour. 
  • Sport: On individual sport bodies, only three CEOs, out of 22 organisations, are women (14%) This is a sharp decline from the 2020 Sex and Power report where women made up 21% of chief executives. Of all-time Premier League clubs, women make up 5% of chief executives. 
  • Health: The number of women chairing NHS trusts is getting closer to parity at 41% and 45% of trusts have a female chief executive. Amanda Prichard has become the first female NHS England chief executive. 
  • Civil Society: Women represent one in three chief executives of the largest 100 charities by income at 36%. Our analysis of 22 professional bodies found that women made up 24% of chief executives and 48% of chairs.  
With International Women’s Day just weeks away, the findings reveal the ongoing scale of challenge to make workplaces more inclusive and improve equity of opportunity. Its theme this year is Break the Bias.

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