The UK’s women’s executive target was met three years ahead of schedule

Women hold two out of five seats on the boards of FTSE 350 companies, hitting the target three years early, according to a government-backed campaign to attract more women to leadership roles.

The annual FTSE Women Leaders Review found that 40.2 per cent of the directors of the UK’s largest listed companies were women last year, surpassing the voluntary threshold set for 2025 and up from just 9.5 per cent 11 years ago.

The successor to the Hampton-Alexander and Davies review found that nearly a fifth of the FTSE 350 boards had a female chair, although there were only 21 female directors in the major stock markets.

Among the FTSE 100 companies with the highest proportion of women on their boards were drinks group Diageo, online car exchange Auto Trader and water company Severn Trent.

Despite having a female chief executive, pharmaceutical company GSK had the fewest women on its board of any blue-chip company, followed by retailer Frasers Group, investment manager St James’s Place and mining company Antofagasta.

The campaign stated that over the next three years, the goal would be to encourage more women to fill top corporate roles such as chief executive and chief financial officer.

Denise Wilson, chief executive of the FTSE Women Leaders Review, said the “quiet, frigid conversation about the lack of women of the past has evolved into a key and critical business topic.”

She added that the representation of women in the UK is now second only to France in the world, where a 40 per cent share of women on boards has been in place since 2017, which she described as a “significant achievement” for a voluntary scheme.

The review said there was “even more work to be done” to increase women’s representation on the FTSE 350 executive committees, which stood at 27 per cent last year. The number of men’s executive committees in the FTSE 350 fell to 10 from 54 in 2017.

For the first time, the report includes data from the UK’s 50 largest private companies, with the average percentage of women on boards being around 31 per cent.

The review, however, found a higher level of discrepancy, with a third reporting more than 40 percent of directors were women, while more than half reported female representation well below average.

Several companies, such as retailer John Lewis, construction firm Laing O’Rourke, and building society Nationwide had high levels of female representation in senior management positions. But 19 companies had either all-male or one-woman boards.

The authors of the report found that making direct comparisons with representation at the board level of listed companies was difficult due to the differences in the top management structure of some private companies.

The percentage of women in FTSE 100 companies below the board of directors – which includes gender balance on executive committees and managers reporting directly to the executive committee – increased to 34.3%, up from 32.5% in 2010. in 2021, women accounted for 41 percent. winning candidates for all available roles last year.

In the FTSE 250, the number of women on leadership teams has increased to 33 percent, up from 30.1 percent in 2021, with 40 percent of leadership roles held by women. For the top 50 private companies, the percentage of executive committee members and direct reports was 34.3 percent.

The review found that in the FTSE 350, 1,202 out of 3,000 board seats and 6,660 out of 20,000 management positions were held by women.

Of the 50 private companies that were asked to take part in the survey, six provided no data, including Ineos, Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s JCB, the Bamford family business, Bestway wholesaler and New Look retailer.

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