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Targets met

Women on FTSE boards up 50% in five years

Stephanie Bruce, CFO at Standard Life Aberdeen, and Alison Rose, CEO, NatWest (RBS)

A campaign to appoint more women to the boards of Britain’s biggest companies has been hailed a success after it achieved key targets.

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.

The data has been published in the final report from the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review, which was launched in 2016 to encourage UK-listed companies to appoint more women to their boards and into senior leadership positions.

While men still dominate in the upper ranks of the UK’s top firms, in five years the Review has seen remarkable progress among FTSE companies.

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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.

The FTSE 250 reached the Hampton-Alexander Review’s final target of women making up 33% of boards in December 2020.

This followed the FTSE 100 and FTSE 350, which achieved the milestone in February and September 2020 respectively.

The government said this highlighted the success of its voluntary, business-led approach.  

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.

“The UK Government’s voluntary, business-led approach to increasing women’s boardroom representation has been hugely successful and will, I hope, serve as a blueprint for countries across the world looking to make business more reflective of society.” 

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The number of “One & Done” boards – with only one woman – has fallen from 116 in 2015 to just 16.

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, and the Review will reflect on these findings in order to chart a way forward.  

Hampton-Alexander Review chairman, 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.” 

Matthew Fell, CBI chief UK policy director, said: “Reaching 33% female representation in FTSE boardrooms has been a long-held ambition for UK plc.

“It’s fantastic to see these firms hit such an historic milestone ahead of the Hampton-Alexander target. We must not take this progress for granted or think that the job is now done.

“Firms must continue to dismantle barriers that prevent women rising to the top – by building fair and inclusive workplaces which bring about lasting change.

“Now this target has been reached, it’s time to go further on female representation and accelerate progress on racial and ethnic diversity in Britain’s boardrooms.”

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