One third of board positions in FTSE 100 held by women

26 March 2020 3 min. read
More news on

While regulatory pressure finally seems to be driving firms to improve the number of women in business leadership roles, the UK is still making slow progress on the matter. New analysis has found that only a third of board positions in FTSE 100 companies are held by women, and among those even fewer women hold top-level board positions.

While businesses are increasingly happy to blow their own trumpet when stating the importance of diversity and gender equality, a mounting pile of evidence usually demonstrates two contradictory things. While more and more managers ‘believe’ in the cause, precious few are willing or able to translate that into concrete action. Illustrating this earlier in 2020, a study from Mercer found that while 80% of organisations stated that improving diversity and inclusion was high on their agenda, fewer than half had an actual plan in place to improve.

Now, a further study by consulting firm Kearney has shown that this lack of a plan is still stifling change when it comes to increasing the number of women in organisational leadership positions. While pressure on UK publicly listed companies to improve gender diversity has cranked up since the 2016 Hampton-Alexander Review stated a third of FTSE 350 board positions should be filled by women by the end of 2020, a number of firms still have a way to go on the matter.  

Among the four countries under analysis, Australia is the most gender diverse while India is the least

According to the study, the FTSE 100 has already met the 33% representation target – with 346 board members – however this looks slightly less impressive when the number of ‘leadership board positions’ held by women is taken into account. Just 28% of the companies in the FTSE 100 index had females in ‘top’ board level positions, including the C-Suite or Chair.

This means that in the FTSE 100, there are only 29 female board members in top positions overall, and only four companies with female CEOs. Aside from the implications that a number of these FTSE 100 appointments seem slightly tokenistic in this context, around 20% of firms in the wider group of 350 still have fewer than a third of their board positions filled by women.  

Ramyani Basu, Kearney’s UK lead for Diversity and Inclusion at Kearney, commented, “The relatively recent implementation of quotas for women in top-level positions has made teams more diverse, but despite quotas being well-intentioned, they are not a long-term solution. Companies need to look at creating a meritocratic culture, moving the narrative from “gender equality” to “individual equity,” embracing individuals for their uniqueness and differences, fostering innovation and creativity to embed an even more inclusive work ethic. It’s important that they encourage everyone to feel they belong, regardless of who they are.”