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Lack of women in executive ranks of top UK firms

Staff Writer |
A report by Cranfield School of Management has criticised the lack of progress in improving gender diversity at the highest executive echelons of FTSE 350 companies.

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Despite progress in female representation on non-executive board positions, the report identifies the lack of women in executive roles on boards of the UK’s leading companies.

In a 48-page detailed analysis, experts from the school’s International Centre for Women Leaders scrutinise data provided by the UK’s top 350 companies.

Drawing on 20 years of experience in this area, the Female FTSE Board Report’s authors identify the leading players in gender diversity in the FTSE 100, and highlight those companies that are lagging behind the rest.

The report’s analysis shows:

FTSE 100 - while the percentage of female non-executive directors is at an all-time high of 35.4%, female executive positions have flat-lined for a fourth consecutive year at 9.7%.

Despite this, the percentage of women on boards has increased from 27.7% in October 2017 to 29% in June 2018, meaning it may be possible to reach the target set by the Hampton-Alexander Review of 33% by the end of 2020.

FTSE 250 - the number of female executive directorships dropped from 38 to 30 between October 2017 and June 2018. There has also only been a marginal increase in the number of women on boards, from 22.8% in October 2017 to 23.7% in June 2018.

FTSE 100 and the Gender Pay Gap - the top 10 companies for the proportion of women on boards reported a slightly lower average gender pay gap than the bottom 10.

The two best companies were Diageo (55% women on boards, 4.1% gender pay gap) and GlaxoSmithKline (45% women on boards, 2.8% gender pay gap).

Female directors are on average nearly two years younger than their male counterparts, but serve for less time and have an average tenure of 3.7 years compared to 5.4 years for men.

In preparing their report, Cranfield’s experts interviewed men and women serving as functional directors on FTSE 100 executive committees – the most senior management rank below board level – about their career trajectories and leadership experiences, drawing comparisons that provide useful insight into how companies can better nurture female leadership talent internally.

Traditionally, functional heads (HR Director, General Counsel, Communications Director) on these committees have not been considered for board roles, as they are seen as having narrow functions and lacking operational experience and business acumen, but the report’s authors challenge these misconceptions and argue they represent a significant pool of executive talent that is too-often overlooked.


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