Number of senior women in Britain's boardrooms unchanged in 10 years

Proportion of women in influential non-executive roles is just 8%, compared with 6% a decade ago, according to Cranfield School of Management

The number of women holding the most senior jobs in the boardrooms of Britain’s biggest 100 companies has barely changed in the past 10 years, despite a series of government-backed initiatives to boost gender diversity.

The analysis by Cranfield School of Management shows that the proportion of women holding the most influential non-executive positions, such as chairman and senior independent director, is just 8%, compared with 6% a decade ago.

The report shows that women now hold 27.7% of directors’ seats in the boardrooms of FTSE 100 companies compared with 11% in 2007, but it is largely a result of women being hired from outside to part-time non-executive roles as part of a drive to meet targets.

The proportion of female chief executives is just 7% – although this has doubled over 10 years – and sparked calls for a renewed focus on promote women into executive roles, particularly at a time when the focus is on Brexit.

The number of women in executive roles – employed as full-time managers in a company – has more than doubled, but is still only 10%.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of employers’ body the CBI, said: “Too much of the focus has been on the non-executives of listed firms, not the day-to-day leaders of our biggest businesses. And at times of great change it’s all too easy to let things slip backwards. This must not be allowed be happen.”

The data was released alongside an update from a government-backed review, which last year set a voluntary target of 33% of FTSE 100 boardroom seats to be held by women by 2020.

Sir Philip Hampton, who had been conducting the review with Dame Helen Alexander, who died in August, is now extending that target to FTSE 250 companies, where the proportion of women holding boardroom roles is currently 22.8%.

“We are making progress towards the targets set out in November 2016, but it’s fair to say that the pace of change will need to quicken if we are to hit the targets,” said Hampton, who is chairman of pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.

This year, 30% of FTSE 100 boardroom appointments have been women and 34% in the FTSE 250. This will need to increase to almost one in two boardroom appointments being women to reach the target, the Hampton-Alexander review said.

For FTSE 100 boards, this is the same rate of hiring of women as over the previous three years, when they were chasing targets set by Lord Mervyn Davies, the former chief executive of Standard Chartered. In 2011, he called for the doubling of the number of women in boards in five years to 25%.

The Hampton-Alexander review has also set a goal to increase female representation at executive committee management levels – just below the boardroom – by measuring 23,000 management positions in FTSE 350 companies.

It has set a target of 33% women in these leadership teams in FTSE 100 companies. It is currently about 25%.

Seven FTSE 100 companies have executive committees without any women, including Barclays bank and oil company BP, two household names that Hampton said he found “very surprising”.

This is “where the glass ceiling is most conspicuous”, he said.

In the foreword to the report, Hampton said he expected companies without women on their executive committees to explain why. “We look forward to hearing cogent reasons from companies that struggle to identify women with strong executive abilities. We share the scepticism of those who also doubt that limited diversity is consistent with a meritocracy.”

Hampton faced criticism in July for his remarks about the BBC gender pay gap when he said women did not ask for pay rises. He said he was not trying to apportion blame for the disparities.


Jill Treanor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Numbers of women in UK boardrooms still low
Equalities minister Nicky Morgan says high ranks still male dominated as report finds only 25% of FTSE 100 directors are female

Rob Davies

07, Jul, 2016 @2:41 PM

Article image
FTSE 100 companies still 66 female directors short of boardroom target
Proportion of women on boards increases to 19%, but business secretary Vince Cable says we still have a way to go

Jill Treanor

06, Oct, 2013 @11:01 PM

Article image
Record number of women in UK boardrooms

Nearly 100 more women were appointed to the boards of FTSE 100 and 250-listed firms in the last year

Graeme Wearden

10, Jan, 2012 @8:51 PM

Article image
Number of FTSE 100 female directors rises by 50% in five years
Women now make up one in three boardroom roles at 350 top UK firms after review achieves target

Joanna Partridge

23, Feb, 2021 @10:30 PM

Article image
Number of women in top boardroom positions falls, says report
FTSE 100 figures remain static, while FTSE 250 companies produce a sharp drop

Julia Kollewe

17, Jul, 2018 @1:10 PM

Article image
Women hold a third of board roles in UK's top public companies
But government’s Hampton-Alexander review is struggling to reach second major gender diversity target

Simon Goodley

08, Feb, 2020 @12:01 AM

Article image
Women-led UK firms struggle to attract equal investment, study finds
The Gender Index aims to support growth of female-led companies, which tend to have lower turnovers

Joanna Partridge

31, Mar, 2022 @12:06 PM

Article image
Sir Philip Hampton to lead push for more women in top jobs
GlaxoSmithKline boss will chair review on how to raise number of female executives at Britain’s 350 biggest public companies

Sean Farrell

07, Feb, 2016 @11:52 AM

Article image
Half of new FTSE 100 chiefs must be women to hit gender target
Official review says step change in top appointments needed in 2020 at UK’s biggest listed firms

Kalyeena Makortoff

13, Nov, 2019 @12:01 AM

Article image
Women in the boardroom: Vince Cable urges top firms to diversify boards

Business secretary identifies eight FTSE 100 firms with men-only boards and will ask them to bolster their number of female executives

Jill Treanor

30, Nov, 2012 @5:39 PM