UK Businesses Make Strides in Board Diversity, Yet Top Roles Lack Women

By: GWL Team | Thursday, 15 June 2023

A recent analysis of Companies House data reveals that UK businesses have made progress in increasing female representation on their boards. The proportion of women on FTSE all-share detailed company boards has risen from 36% to 40% over the past year. However, the study also highlights a concerning lack of women in top executive roles within these organizations.

Only 10% of executive positions, excluding company secretaries, are currently occupied by women. Although the number of companies with all-male boards has decreased, four firms still lack female representation at the board level.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) specifies that companies should have a minimum of 40% women on their boards, with at least one senior board position held by a woman. Nevertheless, 19% of FTSE 100 companies fail to meet this target. Prominent firms such as Frasers Group, Ocado, Rio Tinto, and Hiscox are among those falling short. Additionally, 36% of FTSE 250 companies and 41% of smaller FTSE-listed companies also struggle to achieve gender diversity.

Further analysis reveals that 73% of AIM-listed companies have yet to reach the FCA's gender diversity goal. Notably, 40 FTSE 100 companies lack a woman in one of their top four executive roles. This includes well-known organizations like British Land, Barratt, Centrica, and Tesco.

Campaign group Women on Boards emphasizes the need for women to have a strong voice in the boardroom beyond non-executive director roles. The concern extends to the limited range of expertise and insufficient input on critical issues such as sexual harassment. Fiona Hathorn, CEO of Women on Boards, highlights the importance of diverse perspectives and calls for employee representatives to be involved in board discussions. Companies like FirstGroup, Tui, and Wetherspoon have already taken steps in this direction by appointing employee representatives to gain a deeper understanding of organizational culture and issues.

As companies aim for gender equality and inclusive decision-making, these conclusions underscore the ongoing need to address the underrepresentation of women in top executive positions. Achieving diversity at all levels of leadership is crucial for fostering an inclusive and equitable business environment.