finance

UK companies pressed to appoint more women executives


UK ministers have urged companies to appoint more women to senior executive positions following the end of the Hampton-Alexander review into boardroom gender diversity.

The government-backed review completes a five-year programme that has helped women to take more than a third of positions on FTSE 100, 250 and 350 boards. 

The number of women on FTSE boards has risen by 50 per cent since 2015, to 1026. As of last month, there were no longer any all-male boards in the FTSE 350.

The Hampton-Alexander review was launched in 2016 to encourage UK-listed companies to appoint more women into senior leadership positions.

However, more than a hundred FTSE 350 companies are still not meeting the target of having at least a third of board positions held by women.

There are also 16 companies that still only have a single woman on their board — which the review describes as a ‘one and done’ problem — albeit down from 116 when the review started. 

The government said that all businesses should be pushing to move beyond such tokenism to ensure that more women were reaching the highest ranks of management.

Kwasi Kwarteng, business secretary, said it was important that businesses kept challenging themselves “to use all the talents of our workforce and open up the top ranks for more, highly-accomplished women”.

Only about 13 per cent of executives on boards are women in the FTSE 100 — and there are 28 all-male executive committees across the FTSE 350. The government said that the review “will reflect on these findings in order to chart a way forward”.

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Sir Philip Hampton, review chair, said that progress had been strongest with non-executive board positions, “but the coming years should see many more women taking top executive roles. That’s what is needed to sustain the changes made.”

The focus now needed to shift to ensuring that women had successful executive careers before getting to the point of non-executive roles, Hampton added. “There has been slow progress in the jobs that matter the most. I refuse to believe that the best executives are 85 per cent male.”

Denise Wilson, Hampton-Alexander chief executive, said: “The supply of capable, experienced women is full to overflowing. It is now for business to fully utilise a talent pool of educated, experienced women, to their own benefit and that of the UK economy.”

For the first time, the FTSE 100 has two companies with more women on their board than men, Diageo and Severn Trent. There are four companies in the FTSE 350 with a female chief executive and chair: Admiral Group, Pennon Group, Severn Trent and Direct Line Insurance.



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