Women FDs fail to break glass ceiling at FTSE 100

A third of all board positions in FTSE 100 are now held by women, but female representation in senior executive roles is lagging with only 15% of finance directors at top UK companies being women

Women are underrepresented at finance director level in the FTSE 100 (15%), compared to other functional roles such as human resource director (66%), company secretary (40%), general counsel & company secretary (37%), general counsel (29%) and chief information officer (17%).

Latest research from the Hampton-Alexander review shows the target of 33% female representation on FTSE 100 boards has been met, almost one year early.

However, the review warns that further work is needed for many FTSE 100 companies individually, and for the FTSE 250 overall to meet the 33% target, as it currently sits at 29.5%.

The latest data shows the number of ‘one & done’ boards continues to reduce, from 74 in 2018 to around 30 FTSE 350 companies currently with only one woman on the board, including FTSE 100 Rio Tinto and 14 investment trusts.

Currently, 28.6% of FTSE 100 leadership roles and 27.9% of FTSE 250 leadership roles are held by women, compared to the target of 33% by the end of 2020.

The number of all-male executive committees in the FTSE 350 stands at 44 and remains largely unchanged from 2018.

Denise Wilson, CEO of Hampton-Alexander Review, said: ‘Half of all available appointments to FTSE 350 leadership roles need to go to women in 2020, not only to meet the 33% voluntary target, but to ensure UK business fully benefits from diverse perspectives and is availing itself of the whole talent pool.’

As part of revisions to the UK corporate governance code, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has indicated it expects companies to clearly set out how they plan to develop their diversity pipeline with much improved reporting, including progress towards any measurable targets.  

The regulator said its recent review of early adopters reporting against the code found far too many had limited reporting on diversity, which included how they plan to tackle the lack of women in senior leadership positions.

Sir Jon Thompson, FRC CEO said: ‘Successful and sustainable businesses should reflect the views of shareholders and wider society, with an understanding of the value greater diversity brings at both board level and throughout the business.

‘Given the clear benefits greater diversity brings we expect to see improved reporting going forward to meet the Hampton-Alexander targets.’

‘Everyday sexism’

Research produced for the review by the Global Institute for Women Leadership at King’s College London found that women in senior leadership positions continue to face everyday sexism and what researchers call ‘micro-aggressions’ and ‘incivility’ in the workplace.

Researchers surveyed almost 350 men and women at board or executive committee level and found that 33% of women reported someone at work had made disrespectful or insulting remarks about them, compared to 13% of men.

A similar proportion (34%) of women reported someone at work had ignored or failed to speak to them, or given them the ‘silent treatment’ compared to 23% of men.

Almost a quarter (23%) of women reported that they had been shouted or sworn at by someone at work, compared to 16% of men, while 39% reported being targeted by angry outbursts or ‘temper tantrums’ by someone at work, compared to 23% of men.

Professor Rosie Campbell, director of the Global Institute for Women Leadership, King’s College London, said: ‘Where there are hostile workplace cultures, we simply cannot ask women to lean in and try harder to reach leadership positions.

‘Instead we need to ensure undermining behaviour is called out, not rewarded, and build an inclusive environment that embraces diverse leaders and allows everyone to thrive and give their best work.’

Hampton-Alexander Review FTSE Women Leaders: Improving gender balance in FTSE Leadership

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