FTSE 350 meets female board representation target

Emma Walmsley, CEO of FTSE100 firm GlaxoSmithKline
Kevin Dietsch/DPA/PA Images

More than a third of board members across the UK’s 350 biggest organisations are women, but 18 ‘one-and-done’ boards still remain in the FTSE 250.

Although the FTSE 350 as a whole has met its target for improving female board representation by the end of 2020, which was set by the Hampton-Alexander review four years ago, the government and business bodies were still concerned that businesses were not doing enough to improve gender parity.

Forty-one per cent of FTSE 350 companies had still not reached 33% female board-level representation, and one all-male board remained.

More than 100 companies had failed to meet the diversity target and have been urged by business secretary Alok Sharma to ensure the threshold is met by the end of December.

“Research shows that diverse leadership teams are more innovative and make better decisions. As the UK economy continues to recover from coronavirus, increasing representation of women on boards represents a golden opportunity not only to rebuild, but build back better,” he said.

However, there were some positive signs of progress: representation of women at the top of business has risen by 3.8% in the past year, despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Recognising the significant impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic on all business activities, it is encouraging to see the number of women at the top of British business continue to increase,” said Denise Wilson, chief executive of the government-commissioned Hampton-Alexander Review.

“This confirms the UK’s business-led voluntary approach is working and the benefits of diversity are being recognised, with business seeking more than ever those with fresh energy, new ideas and diverse perspectives.”

Businesses must focus on meeting the target before the end of the year as expected by investors, said Chris Cummings, chief executive of the Investment Association.

“Although good progress has been made with many companies recently appointing additional women to their boards and senior leadership teams, some laggards remain,” he said.

“On behalf of investors, I want to send a rallying cry to those companies that now is the time to take action and demonstrate real change. Diversity results in better decision-making and plays an essential role in a company’s long-term success and investors expect companies, at a minimum, to meet the target set.”

Earlier this year, the Investment Association and the Hampton-Alexander Review jointly wrote to around 40 companies in the FTSE 350 with one woman or less on their board, asking them to set out what actions their board is taking to ensure progress is made to meet the target. Most of the companies responded positively, the government said.

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