Less than a third of UK’s top jobs filled by women, research finds

Lack of diversity is ‘bad for us all’, charity warns, as data shows men outnumber women two to one in top roles across society

Less than a third of UK’s top jobs filled by women, research finds

Less than a third of the UK’s top jobs are held by women, a charity has said, including just eight at the head of FTSE 100 firms.

The latest Sex and Power report from the Fawcett Society found that across different areas of society, men still outnumber women in positions of power by a ratio of two to one, with ethnic minority women facing even greater levels of under-representation.

The report said there were no women from ethnic minority backgrounds at the head of any of the top 100 listed companies in the UK. Instead, white males continued to “dominate” boards and executive committees, making up three in five (60.4 per cent) of FTSE 100 board seats.



While there had been some improvement in the proportion of ethnic minority men in the last year, increasing from 4.6 per cent to 6.3 per cent between 2019 and 2021, the proportion of ethnic minority women increased from just 2.8 per cent to 4 per cent over the same period.

Of the 5,166 positions of power that the report looked at across society – including in business, law, sports, health and politics, among others – women held just 32 per cent, suggesting there were 919 women missing from the top roles in the UK.

Jemima Olchawski, CEO of the Fawcett Society said this male dominance in top roles wasn’t just bad news for the women missing out on these opportunities, but for society as a whole. 

“The people who hold the top jobs in our society have enormous power to shape our democracy, culture and economy,” she said. “It’s bad for us all, as we miss out on women’s talent, skills and perspectives.”


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Olchawski added it was “appalling that in 2022 women of colour are missing in leadership positions from some of our key institutions and organisations”.

“Structures, culture and often individuals continue to create barriers that prevent women, and women of colour in particular, rising to the top. And we’re all losing out as a result,” she said.

This was echoed by Dianne Greyson, founder of the Ethnicity Pay Gap Campaign, who used the findings to renew calls on the government to introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting. “This is a key step in addressing structural barriers that stop women from ethnic backgrounds progressing into positions of power,” she said.

“Our recent research shows that black women experience pay disparity based on their race and are significantly held back in their career progression because of structural racism… We want to see companies eradicate the cultural and systemic practices that impact women from an ethnic background,” said Greyson.

The report said that while some progress was being made in business for women in general, the rate of change was “far too slow”. Firms needed to “actively work towards diversifying” top roles by setting and achieving the same kind of targets used to successfully increase diversity among non-executive roles.

Women held 37.7 per cent of all FTSE 100 directorship roles in 2021, up from 32.1 per cent in 2019, but just 13.7 per cent of executive directorship roles, up from 10.9 per cent over the same time period.