Women on FTSE boards soar 50%, but more needed in leadership roles – report

Holly Williams, PA Deputy City Editor
·3-min read

The number of women on FTSE boards has surged by 50% in five years, but “significant progress” is needed to boost the number of female top bosses in Britain’s biggest firms, according to a report.

The final report from the Hampton-Alexander Review revealed that the number of women on FTSE boards has jumped to 1,026 – up from 682 in 2015.

It means that 34.3% of FTSE 350 board roles are now held by women, up from 21.9% in October 2015 – hitting the review’s target for at least a third.

There are also no all-male boards, against 15 in 2015, in another milestone for the review, which was launched in 2016 with the aim of increasing female representation at the top of business.

But the review’s chair Sir Philip Hampton called for further progress on increasing the number of women in top executive roles, with men still firmly dominating the ranks.

Sir Philip 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.”

The report showed that only 29.4% of leadership roles are held by women in the FTSE 350 – up from 28.2% in 2019 – while there are still 28 all-male executive committees.

The report said 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”.

It also revealed a sharp drop in the number of so-called “One & Done” boards – those with only one woman – down from 116 in 2015 to just 16.

“All businesses should be pushing themselves to move beyond tokenism, and ensure even more women are getting into the highest ranks,” according to the review.

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.”

Of those with a solid representation of women leaders, it found high street chain Next was the best performer with 53.8%, followed by luxury fashion house Burberry with 50.4% and drug giant AstraZeneca in third place with 42.9%.

The report also said that for the first time, two FTSE 100 Index firms now have more women represented on their board than men – Guinness drinks group Diageo with 60% and Severn Trent Plc with 55.6%.

Four firms in the FTSE 350 have women in the post of chief executive and chair – insurers Admiral Group and Direct Line Insurance Group, as well as water firms Pennon Group and Severn Trent.