UK firms set to fall short of government targets for women on boards

Britain’s largest companies are set to fall short of government targets for women on boards despite progress in recent years, new figures have revealed.

At firms making up the FTSE 100, 32.1 per cent of board members are women, up from 30.2 per cent a year earlier, and 12.5 per cent in 2011.

In the FTSE 250, progress is lagging behind – with women making up 27.5 per cent of board members by November last year, figures released on Monday by the government’s Hamilton-Alexander review showed.

The review, established by Theresa May to examine the gender gap in the top tier of UK business, has set a target of one third of board members to be women at the 350 largest-listed firms by the end of 2020. Four of those companies still have all-male boards, down from five a year earlier and 152 in 2011. However, more than 40 companies have just one woman on their board.

Sir Philip Hampton, chair of the review said: “The FTSE 250 is working hard to catch up but still too many boards have only one woman and remarkably today there are four all-male boards in the FTSE 250.

“We are expecting to see good progress in the number of women appointed into senior leadership roles this year, with those companies having worked hard for several years exceeding the 33 per cent target and reaping the benefits. We look forward to receiving the data submissions during the month of July and reporting on progress in November.”

In March, the review wrote to 69 firms which had one or fewer female board members, encouraging them to increase gender diversity.

Figures released as part of a half-yearly update on the review show that 20 of those companies have since appointed women to their boards but 14 did not respond, including casino group Rank and oil and gas exploration firm Riverstone Energy.

Denise Wilson White, who is chief executive of the review, said the lack of response was frustrating.

“There are a small number of companies that are holding things back – and the question is what do we do about them,” she said in an interview with The Telegraph

“We are powerless in terms of giving any sanction or doing anything about these companies that choose not to address the shortfall of women in their leadership team. And I think that is where going forward, is the next stage.”


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