Companies Urged to Promote More Women to Executive Positions

A Government-backed review has recommended that FTSE 100 companies should ensure that at least 33% of their executive pipeline positions are filled by women by the year 2020.

According to the review, which was headed up by Sir Philip Hampton, Chair of GlaxoSmithKline, and Dame Helen Alexander, Chair of UBM, these measures are necessary to ensure talented women at the top of business are recognised, promoted and rewarded.

Current Figures Present a Mixed Picture

The latest figures show that women currently account for around 25% of those sitting on FTSE 100 executive committees and their direct reports. However, this figure can vary widely from company to company. Twenty FTSE 100 companies have at least a third of their executive pipeline made up of women, but there are apparently still twelve companies with no women at all on their executive committees.

“It is clear that the voluntary business-led framework to improve the number of women at the top of British business is working and it is time to extend the focus beyond the boardroom,” said Sir Philip Hampton and Dame Helen Alexander in a joint statement. “We are launching the next stage in the journey where FTSE 100 companies will aim for a third of their all-important leadership roles to be occupied by women by the end of 2020.”

“We don’t under-estimate the challenge the new voluntary target presents for many FTSE companies,” they added. “However, we are encouraged by the breadth of experienced women ready and willing to step up, the significant efforts underway in many companies on this agenda and the ability of British business to work together to bring about change when it is needed.”

The review has also recommended that the Financial Reporting Council amends the UK Corporate Governance Code so that FTSE 350 companies are required to disclose the gender balance of their executive committees and direct reports, to make sure there is transparency around how many women are in senior positions.

Davies Review

The Hampton-Alexander review followed the Davies review, which published its final report in October 2015, recommending a 33% target for FTSE 350 boards by the end of 2020. It also recommended that FTSE 350 companies increase the number of women in the roles of Chair, Senior Independent Director and Executive Director on boards.

The latest figures have apparently revealed a small increase in the number of women appointed to board positions in the past year, and that the number of FTSE 350 companies with all male boards is at an all-time low (152 in 2011 to just 11 today).

IoD’s Response

The Institute of Directors (IoD) has welcomed the outcome of the review.

“We have long argued that focusing just on boards fails to build a sustainable pipeline of women leaders,” said Lady Barbara Judge, Chairman of the IoD. “Having a third of executive committees made up by women by 2020 is a very stretching target, and there will have to be sustained political and public pressure for this to be achieved.”

“There is no question that Britain’s boardrooms benefit when there are people from diverse backgrounds around the table, be that in terms of gender, age, or career background,” she added. “The Government, through this review, has laid down an ambitious target, and it is one that the business community must work to achieve.”

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