Women still missing from top ranks

A report from the Fawcett Society says the UK is “generations away” from achieving gender equality as women remain seriously underrepresented in top jobs across society.

Women in leadership: overcoming the barriers


The pace of change at the top of the UK’s main sectors is “dismally slow”, according to the Fawcett Society’s 2020 Sex and Power Index.

The Society looks at key sectors and finds, for instance, that only 17% of Supreme Court justices are women and that women make up just over one in 20 CEOs of FTSE 100 companies, unchanged since its last report in 2018. In the Supreme Court there is no justice who is a person of colour and there is no woman of colour who is CEO of a FTSE 100 company.

Other findings show improvements in areas such as politics, but overall little or no movement:

  • Education: Women make up just 39% of Secondary Head Teachers. This figure has not changed since the 2018 report and has risen by just 6% since 2005. Women make up 30% of university vice-chancellors – but only 1% of university vice-chancellors are women are colour.
  • Media: Women make up only 21% of national newspaper editors – with just four women in the top jobs.
  • Sport: Women make up 21% of national Sport Governing Body CEOs, a drop from 26% in 2018. Only 4% of Premier League Clubs are led by women.
  • House of Commons: 34% of MPs are women – up only 2% in the recent election. Women of colour now make up 17% of the women MPs, which is in line with the population as a whole.
  • House of Lords: the percentage of women is at 27%, which is significantly lower than the Commons and up by only 1% since the 2018 report. Only 2% of all peers are women of colour.
  • Devolved Parliament / Assemblies: there are no women of colour in the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales or the Northern Ireland Assembly.
  • Cabinet: 30% of the Cabinet are women and 47% of the Shadow Cabinet.
  • Civil service: Approximately a third of permanent secretaries are women (up from 31% in 2018 to 34% currently). There are no women of colour in these roles.

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Chief Executive, says: “Male dominance of positions of power remains strong as this 2020 Sex and Power Index shows.  If we want change, we have to make it happen.  That means quotas, targets and policy interventions to remove the barriers to women’s progression.

“Our research also shows the alarming lack of women of colour in the top tiers of many sectors. Fawcett’s new project with the Runnymede Trust on the pay and progression of women of colour will shine a spotlight on the specific challenges and barriers they face in the workplace. “

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