Report highlights progress on women on FTSE 350 boards

A new report shows that the number of women on FTSE 350 boards has increased by 50% over the last five years.

Women on boards - women at the head of a boardoom


More than a third of FTSE 350 board positions are now held by women, with the number of women on boards increasing by 50% over the last five years, although there is still slow progress on executive roles which is being exacerbated by high turnover rates and lower rates of promotion for women, according to a new report.

The data, published in the final report from the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review, shows 220 of the FTSE 350 companies now meet the Hampton-Alexander target of having at least a third of their board positions held by women – with the figure having quadrupled from just 53 in 2015. Moreover, there are no longer any all-male boards in the FTSE 350. Over half of all FTSE 100 companies now have 40% or more women on their board. Around a third of
all Chair and Senior Independent Director roles are occupied by women and this is increasing each year.

The FTSE 250 reached the Hampton-Alexander Review’s final target of women making up 33% of boards in December 2020.  The FTSE 100 and FTSE 350 achieved this in February and September 2020 respectively.

The number of “One & Done” boards – with only one woman – has fallen from 116 in 2015 to 16.

Non-executive roles

The report, however, highlights that there is still work to be done in executive roles, particularly CEOs, CFOs and Chief Information Officers, supporting several other studies which show that a lot of the increase in women on boards is down to non-executive roles. The report states that the number of women in Executive Director positions on boards “remains flat” and calls for a redoubling of efforts on the promotion of women to executive roles. It notes that increased turnover at the top level is also proving problematic as two thirds of new positions are still going to men.

Women in leadership

Nevertheless, in the FTSE 100 the number of women in the Combined Executive Committee and Direct Reports has increased to 30.6%, up from 28.6% last year – the largest increase in women in leadership in four years, with stronger progress on the Executive Committee than in the Direct Reports. However, the FTSE 250 has made slower progress on Executive Committee and Direct Report roles, with figures up from 27.9% in 2019 to just 28.5% in 2020.

It states that the companies that started to address the shortfall of women in leadership many years ago “are now leading the way”.

Hampton-Alexander Review Chair, Sir Philip Hampton 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.”

Meanwhile, the Investment Association has increased the threshold for its red alerts on gender diversity, saying it will issue a warning to any FTSE 350 firms which have 30% or fewer female directors. Last year the threshold was 20%. It will also issue an ‘amber-top’ warning to companies that do not disclose either the ethnic diversity of their board or a credible action plan to achieve the Parker Review targets of having at least one director from an ethnic minority background by 2021.

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