Number of women on UK financial services boards accelerating faster than in Europe

An EY study shows UK financial services firms are taking on a higher percentage of women at board level than their European counterparts.

Women on boards - women at the head of a boardoom

 

UK financial services firms are responding to investor expectations for greater gender diversity in the boardroom, with 58 per cent of appointments over the last year being female, compared to 50% across European firms, according to EY Boardroom Monitor data.

This is part of an ongoing trend, says EY as, over the past two years, 56% of board appointees at UK financial services firms were female and 44% were male, versus 46% female and 54% male across Europe.   This is in response to investor demand, with 44 per cent of investors stating that gender diversity in the boardroom significantly influences their decision to invest in a financial services company, compared to just 16% who say it does not influence their decision at all.

The current gender split of board members across UK financial services firms stands at 43% female and 57% male. This is marginally ahead of aggregate levels across Europe, which stands at 58% male and 42% female, and is a five percentage-point increase from June 2022, when it was 63% male and 37% female.

The data shows that, at 34 months, the average board tenure for female directors at UK financial services firms is markedly shorter than the 54-month average tenure for female directors across Europe, reflecting the recent accelerated recruitment of female directors in the UK, says EY.

The average age of female board directors at UK financial services firms is 58, younger than male counterparts with an average age of 61, and marginally older than peers in Europe, where the average age of female and male board directors is 57 and 60 respectively.

Anna Anthony, EY UK Financial Services Managing Partner, says: “The drive for gender balance in the boardroom is playing out prominently across UK financial services. Ensuring that boardrooms reflect the diverse customers and societies they serve remains a work in progress, but the substantial increase in female representation in the past six months alone is particularly encouraging.

“Leaders across the financial sector are responding to the need for change, increasingly viewing diversity as a strategic priority. Given the role that diverse views, backgrounds and experience plays in identifying and responding to risks and in creating the challenge culture requisite to effective boards, we expect to see boards ramp up their focus on age and cultural diversity over the coming months.”

The data also shows that female board members of UK financial services firms are more likely to have C-suite experience than their European peers; 59% of female UK board directors tracked have held a C-suite role relative to 51% of female counterparts in Europe. Male board members at UK firms are also more likely to have C-suite experience relative to peers in Europe; nearly three quarters (73%) of male UK board directors have C-suite experience relative to 62% in Europe.

In the UK, gender diversity is highest across wealth and asset managers’ boards, where 45% of directors are female and 55% are male.  It is lowest amongst UK bank boards, where 41% of directors are female and 59% are male. At UK insurance firms, the gender split stands at 43% female and 57% male.

The data also tracks age diversity and sustainability. It shows there are no board members under the age of 40 across UK financial services firms and that more than half (51%) of investors believe boardroom experience in sustainability has a ‘significant’ impact in terms of making a company an attractive investment, with 22% indicating it has a ‘highly significant’ impact on a company’s investment case.



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