This week saw the publication of the 2019 Hampton Alexander Review, an annual, government-backed study of female representation at the top of UK business.
2019, the report stated, marked the strongest year of progress on this issue since 2011. The proportion of women on FTSE250 boards rose by almost five percentage points, while in the FTSE350 there are now only two all-male boards.
With this news, it’s worth taking stock, and looking back at how far the landscape has changed. It was only eight years ago that female representation at the hundred biggest UK-based companies stood as low as 12.5%. Now, that figure is 32.4%. This means that the FTSE100 is likely to meet the target set by the Review, of 33% female representation by 2020.
Not all of the Review’s target are likely to be achieved, however, for FTSE 250 boards and for female representation in senior leadership roles more widely. There are still dozens of ‘one and done’ companies, which have progressed no further than a single woman on the board.
It’s at a granular level where things arguably become even more concerning. By the Mail on Sunday’s recent count, there are now only 13 female CEOs at a FTSE250 level, with the number of chairs also low. ‘Women must be trusted not just to be part of the discussion, but also to lead it,’ argued IoD chair Charlotte Valeur, in the same article, urging big firms to ‘take a long hard look at their recruitment processes and ask what barriers are being put up that prevent women and ethnic minorities from advancing both in executive roles and to the board.’
The factors behind the lack of diversity at the top of business are, of course, not restricted to the world of business itself. But it’s in directors’ interests to take a lead on the issue.
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