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FTSE 100 – only a third of positions are held by women

A government backed review has found that at some of the biggest companies in the UK, only one in three board positions are held by women.

In a report carried out by Hampton-Alexander it was shown that just 349 women sit on the boards of FTSE 100 firms. A spokesperson for the government said that ‘fantastic work’ had shown a target almost one year earlier than was expected. Unfortunately, what the report also showed was that there is a lack of senior and executive roles held by women, who only make up 15% of finance directors. This compares to human resources departments figures of 66% female directors.

Chief Executive of the Hampton-Alexander Review, Denise Wilson told the BBC there are several issues which prevent further progress. These include an unconscious bias along with gender stereotypes as to what a leader should look like.

Ms Wilson stated that 33% was a ‘good place to start’ but as the report shows, there is a long way to go before a good gender balance is in place in British business leadership.

The UK is still, it seems, making slow progress on gender balance in business even though regulatory pressure is driving firms to increase the number of women in top roles. New figures show that only 33% of FTSE top positions are held by women. For top-level board positions the percentage is even lower.

What has come to light is that while many companies are pleased to ‘blow their own trumpets’ about the importance they place on gender equality and diversity, evidence shows that there is a contradictory side to this.

While many more managers profess to believe in equality and diversity, very few are willing to take any concrete actions to improve conditions. Indeed, a study by Mercer showed that 80% of companies placed diversity and inclusion high on the agenda, but less than half had a plan in place to achieve this.

Consulting firm Kearney stated that their study had shown that the lack of a firm plan in place is the reason why plans to increase women in leadership positions are stifled.

Even though pressure has been placed on UK listed companies to improve gender diversity, only a third of all the FTSE 350 board positions would be filled by women by the end of 2020. Several firms still have a long way to go to achieve this figure.

Figures from the study showed that the FTSE 100 had met the representation target of 33% with it's 346 board members. However, when taken with the number of leadership board positions held by women, the numbers are less impressive. Top board level positions, including the C-suite and Chair are only held by 28% of women.

This equates to the FTSE 100 there are just 29 female board members in top roles, and only four companies boasting female CEOs. 20% of businesses in the wider group of 350 have less than 30% of top positions filled by women.

Kearney’s UK leader for Diversity and Inclusion Ramyani Basu commented that although teams had been made more diverse by the implication of quotas for female staff in top-level positions, these are not a long-term solution.

Companies must now start to look at ways to create a meritocratic culture. This will move the issue of gender equality to individual equality, which in turn would ensure that companies embrace people for their uniqueness and individuality.

This change in attitude will foster innovation and creativity which will produce an inclusive work ethic. What should be important to businesses is that staff at all levels feel they belong, regardless of who they are.

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