Gender diversity in UK boardrooms struggling to keep up with European counterparts, survey reveals

Businesses should be ‘even more proactive’ when it comes to reaching targets, experts warn

The UK is falling behind its European counterparts when it comes to female representation in the boardroom, despite making significant progress over the last few years, a report has found.

An international study by Deloitte of more than 10,000 publicly listed companies, including 509 from the UK, found that less than a third (30 per cent) of board seats in the UK were held by women.

This was 7.4 per cent higher than in 2019 – the year the report was first compiled – and saw the UK rank 9th in the world for boardroom diversity. However, the UK still sat below six other European countries, and also fell behind New Zealand and South Africa.

France ranked the highest for gender diversity on boards, and was just 6.8 per cent away from parity of representation.

The report was created in collaboration with campaign group The 30% Club and analysed data from 10,493 companies in 51 countries.

Jackie Henry, managing partner for people and purpose at Deloitte UK, said that while the UK was moving in the right direction when it came to the number of board seats held by women, the country was still “a long way behind our European neighbours”.

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“UK businesses need to be even more proactive in taking diversity targets seriously, improving disclosure and being more transparent in reporting,” she said, adding: “The UK could realise gender parity as soon as 2027 if the progress we’ve seen in the last two years continues at the same pace.”

Commenting on the report Ann Cairns, global chair of The 30% Club, said company chairs and CEOs should be encouraged to give women their first board seat. “There is plenty of talent out there who would make great directors.

“This is very true for people of colour, too many of whom would welcome the chance to make a significant contribution at the top of the corporate world but remain significantly under-represented,” she said.

Globally, Deloitte’s report demonstrates slow progress towards gender parity, with just one in five (19.7 per cent) boardroom seats held by women. This was up just 2.8 per cent compared to 2019.