UK announces five-year review to improve opportunities for women at the top of British business

Nov 03, 2021
Representation is improving, but more still needs to be done to tackle gender inequality

The UK government has announced its backing for a new review to monitor the representation of women in the upper rungs of FTSE companies and increase opportunities available to them.

The FTSE Women Leaders Review was revealed this week by the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy. The new five-year review is the successor to the government-backed Hampton Alexander review, which ran from 2015 to 2020 and was widely regarded as a success, seeing a 50 percent increase in women holding positions on FTSE boards in just five years.

Results from the final report of the Hampton-Alexander review found that its main target of having a third of all FTSE 350 board positions held by women had been met, with more than 34 percent of board roles held by women by the end of 2020.

The FTSE 100 index reached 33 percent female representation in February 2020 – almost a year ahead of the deadline – with 349 women on FTSE 100 boards out of a total of 1,046 directorships. The FTSE 250 index reached 33 percent female representation in December 2020 – in line with the target date – with 652 women on FTSE 250 boards out of a total of 1,962 directorships.

Overall, 68 companies in the FTSE 100 individually met the 33 percent female representation target, as did 152 companies in the FTSE 250. The review also found that the number of so-called ‘one and done’ boards – those having only one member who is a woman – dwindled from 116 in 2015 to just 16 earlier this year.

The government has said there will be new targets, yet to be announced, and that new leadership is currently being appointed to steer the review, which is already welcoming the submission of gender diversity data from FTSE firms.

Commenting on the new review, business minister Paul Scully says: ‘UK business has taken great strides when it comes to gender diversity at board level, underlining the success of the government’s voluntary approach. Companies shouldn’t take their foot off the gas. Evidence shows that more diverse businesses are more successful businesses – the case is too strong to ignore.’

The FTSE Women Leaders Review captures gender data for more than 23,000 employees on boards and in leadership roles two layers below the board, across all sectors of British business. It adopts a voluntary approach, encourages progress and the sharing of best practice, and collects and publishes leadership gender data on an annual basis.

The review portal is open for all FTSE 350 companies to submit their Women in Leadership gender diversity data from Monday, November 1 until Tuesday, November 30, 2021. The next annual report will be published in February 2022.

Further information can be found here.

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