The UK has climbed to second in the international rankings for women’s representation on boards at FTSE 100 level.
New data shows that nearly 40% of UK FTSE 100 board positions are now held by women, compared with 12.5% just 10 years ago.
The data has been published in a new report by the government-backed FTSE Women Leaders Review, which monitors women’s representation in 24,000 positions on FTSE 350 Boards and in leadership teams of the UK’s biggest companies, building on the success of the previous Hampton-Alexander and Davies Reviews.
The findings demonstrate a major sea-change in attitudes to getting women leaders to the top table of business in the UK, with women’s board representation increasing in 2021 across the FTSE 100 (39.1%), FTSE 250 (36.8%) and FTSE 350 (37.6%).
The report highlights the success of the UK government’s voluntary, business-led approach to setting targets for getting more women on boards, as the UK progressed from fifth to second in the international rankings at FTSE 100 level, leapfrogging countries such as Norway, which enforces a mandatory quota system on businesses.
“UK businesses have made enormous progress in recent years to ensure that everyone, whatever their background, can succeed on merit – and today’s findings highlight this with more women at the top table of Britain’s biggest companies than ever before,” said Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng.
“However, we should not rest on our laurels, and the FTSE Women Leaders Review will build on the success so far of our voluntary, business-led approach to increasing women’s representation on boards and in leadership, without the need for mandatory quotas.”
The number of women in chair roles across the FTSE 350 rose to 48, up from 39 in 2020, and there has been a significant decrease in the number of ‘One & Done’ boards to just six this year.
While there has been remarkable progress at boardroom level, the report also shines a light on areas where there is still more to do. For example, only 1 in 3 leadership roles and around 25% of all executive committee roles are held by women and there are very few women in the CEO role. Equally, there are still many companies yet to hit the former 33% target set by the Hampton Alexander Review.
Recommendations set out by today’s FTSE Women Leaders Review report include: the voluntary target for FTSE 350 Boards and for leadership teams is increased to a minimum of 40% women’s representation by the end of 2025; FTSE 350 companies to have at least one woman in the chair, senior independent director role on the board and/or one woman in the CEO or finance director role by the end of 2025; and extending the scope of the FTSE Women Leaders Review beyond FTSE 350 companies to include the largest 50 private companies in the UK by sales.
Denise Wilson, chief executive of the FTSE Women Leaders Review, said: “We know there is much more work to do and no shortage of experienced, capable women, ambitious for themselves and their company across all sectors of business today.
“So while we continue to build on progress for women on boards, we need to firmly shift focus in this next phase to women in leadership roles at the top of the organisation.”