Women now hold one-third of board roles at top companies

8 February 2020, 10:58

Andrea Leadsom praised the 'fantastic work' of the review
Andrea Leadsom praised the 'fantastic work' of the review. Picture: PA

By Megan White

A third of board positions in leading companies are now held by women, beating a Government-backed target by a year.

Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom welcomed the "fantastic work" of the Hampton-Alexander Review, saying the target had been achieved voluntarily and without the need for legislation, fines or penalties.

But it highlighted a lack of female representation in senior leadership and executive roles in FTSE companies, making up only 15 per cent of FTSE 100 finance directors.

Ms Leadsom said: "The Hampton-Alexander Review has done fantastic work but it's clear that women continue to face barriers to success, whether that's through promotion to key roles or how they are treated by colleagues.

"Businesses must do more to tackle these issues and we will support them in doing so, including through our world leading reforms to workplace rights."

Denise Wilson, chief executive of the Hampton-Alexander Review, said: "Half of all available appointments to FTSE 350 leadership roles need to go to women in 2020, not only to meet the 33% voluntary target but to ensure UK business fully benefits from diverse perspectives and is availing itself of the whole talent pool."

Sir Philip Hampton, who chaired the review, said: "We have come a long way since 2011 when the UK first embarked on a drive towards greater gender equality at the top of British business."

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "It's great that more women have seats on company boards, but let's not kid ourselves - we have a long way to go.

"Men are still seven times more likely to be finance directors than women.

"The Government won't be able to achieve gender equality unless it makes work more family-friendly, and unless it tackles sexist aggression towards women."

Charlotte Valeur, who chairs the Institute of Directors, said: "It's right to celebrate the progress made, showing that focusing the spotlight on diversity can change the behaviour of big companies.

"However, this is not a case of 'job done'. There is still a glaring lack of diversity at executive level and among chairs, and firms must continue to strive towards a more inclusive culture or they risk slipping backwards."