Number of women on FTSE 350 boards increases 50 per cent in five years

But Hampton-Alexander Review says more needs to be done to improve female representation in top executive roles

Number of women on FTSE 350 boards increases 50 per cent in five years

The number of female executives on the boards of the UK’s top listed companies increased by 50 per cent in the last five years, the government-backed review on boardroom diversity has found.

In its final report, the Hampton-Alexander Review said that, as of 11 January 2021, there were 1,026 women on FTSE 350 boards, an increase of 344 from 682 since the review was launched in 2016.

Both the FTSE 100 and the FTSE 250 met the review’s target of achieving 33 per cent female representation (36.2 and 33.2 per cent respectively) while across the FTSE 350 34.3 per cent of board positions were held by women.

Individually, 220 firms in the FTSE 350 had at least 33 per cent female representation on their boards, compared to just 55 in 2015, and for the first time there were two boards with more women than men – Diageo (60 per cent) and Severn Trent (55.6 per cent).

There were also no longer any all-male boards across the top 350 listed companies – a fact highlighted early this week by The 30% Club. But there were still 16 ‘one and done’ boards that only had a single female board member.

The report also found an increase in the number of women in wider senior leadership roles – defined as being on the executive committee or reporting directly to the executive committee.

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Across the FTSE 350, women held 29.4 per cent of all leadership roles, up from just a quarter (24.5 per cent) in 2017 when this data was first collected – which the review said was evidence that improving representation at the top of an organisation helped boost representation across the business.

However, women still only made up 14 per cent of executive directors in the FTSE 100, and the report said more progress was needed to improve representation in the highest executive roles.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, said the results showed the government’s voluntary approach to increasing boardroom diversity was a success. “FTSE companies have made incredible progress in recent years, but we cannot become complacent in building a society where everyone has an opportunity to get on and succeed,” he said.

“While women make up more than a third of those in senior leadership positions, the review found that significant progress remains to be made on the highest executive roles, such as CEO.” 

Mary O’Connor, acting senior partner at KPMG UK, added that women – as well as other underrepresented groups – still faced “structural and cultural barriers” to senior roles. “Achieving the review’s 33 per cent target at boardroom level marks great progress, but it’s vital we have a strong pipeline of female talent rising through the ranks,” she said.