Very slow progress on women in top roles

Analysis by S & P Capital IQ shows that the number of female chief executives in leading UK firms is rising very slowly.

A woman in a suite stands by a boardoom table with a city backdrop behind her


Just 6.3% of Chief Executives at leading UK firms are women, according to an analysis which shows that little progress has been made when it comes to increasing gender diversity at the top of organisations.

The analysis by S&P Capital IQ shows that the number of women increased from 6% in 2019 and 6.2% in 2020. There are only 17 female chief executives in the FTSE 350.

Nevertheless, the UK ranks fifth among G20 nations when it comes to the proportion of large companies being led by women. Globally, the US leads the way with the highest proportion of female CEOs, at 8.4%. South Africa is next with 7.3%, followed by China’s 5.4%. Japan and Saudi Arabia have the lowest proportion of companies led by women, at 1.3%.

The report comes as a study of FTSE 350 financial services companies by employment firm Fox & Partners finds women make up only about one in seven of senior management roles at financial services firms. It found there were 7,552 women out of 50,639 senior management jobs in the sector. Gender diversity was found to be lowest at CEO level, with women holding just 8 per cent of CEO positions. Moreover, women directors were paid less. Female directors at FTSE 350 financial services firms were paid on average £247,100 compared to the £722,300 paid to their male counterparts.

Fox & Partners points out that, while boardroom gender diversity has been boosted by females in non-executive roles, there is still “significant” work to do in appointing women to better-paid, senior executive positions.

Meanwhile, the Civil Service has announced plans for their more than 430,000 staff in the UK to work from home or in a hybrid capacity across 10 cities. A contract signed with IWG aims to facilitate these plans for flexible, hybrid working for civil servants.

In the meantime, KPMG is reported to be looking to combat “Zoom fatigue” among its staff by piloting a scheme encouraging employees to take regular breaks and avoid back-to-back virtual meetings.

It will test a “rainbow meeting system” that will colour-code calls, ranking them so staff understand the level of engagement expected and whether they need to be on screen.

KPMG has already rolled out health and wellbeing apps; launched a working from home podcast; and introduced a “staying connected buddy scheme” to encourage communication.

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