Positive progress masks ongoing challenges for women in reaching the top of UK businesses

In response to the Hampton-Alexander Review update for 2019, Jill Miller, diversity and inclusion adviser for the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, comments:

“The progress on improved numbers of women in leadership roles in the FTSE 100 companies is encouraging. However, there’s still a long way to go until we can say there is equality of opportunity for women in Britain’s boardrooms.

“Representation of women in executive roles, rather than non-executive roles is still far too low and needs to be addressed as a priority. The ongoing failure to address this highlights that too few businesses are thinking about talent planning and how they can make senior roles more accessible and attractive to women. However, the extension of the director target to also include their direct reports is a positive step towards addressing this as it will encourage businesses to think seriously about building sustainable talent pipelines rather than making ad-hoc token gestures.

“Organisations won’t truly benefit from a gender diverse workforce if women are still underrepresented in operational roles which have day-to-day influence and decision-making power. To address this, we recommend the establishment of a voluntary target for 20% of FTSE 350 board-level executive directors to be women by 2025 as a stepping stone towards achieving equal gender representation on boards.

“As we near the 2020 target, companies need to be bolder and more inclusive with their efforts. There is still a lack of ethnic diversity at the top of organisations. Not all women are benefitting equally from the progress that is being made and this imbalance cannot be allowed to continue. 

“Gender equality is everyone’s business at work, from senior leaders’ role-modelling inclusive behaviours through to line managers, people professionals and investors who can really challenge businesses on their actions.”