Targets bring more women on boards, but they still don’t reach the top

Businesswomen at an evening meeting in a boardroom, women on boards, female executives

Targets bring more women on boards, but they still don’t reach the top, according to a new report.

The annual Female FTSE Board Report, conducted by Cranfield University and sponsored by EY, has found that while targets can improve gender balance and unroot bias, greater accountability is needed by UK boards to accelerate progress in diversity.

Voluntary targets have boosted gender diversity on UK boards, but the research warns that there are still too few women in senior leadership positions, such as CEO and Chair, to drive long-term change.

The report found that although the FTSE 350 looks on track to reach the target of 33 per cent of women on boards by December 2020, a lack of representation at the top could be impacting the number of women in the executive pipeline.

Despite an increase in the percentage of women on boards in both FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies, there are still only five female CEOs, eight female Chairs and 21 women Senior Independent Directors in the FTSE 100.

Speaking about the report, Sue Vinnicombe, Professor of Women and Leadership at Cranfield University, and lead author of the report, said, “This year our research establishes that it is not sufficient just to have a critical mass of women Non-Executive Directors on a board in order to increase the number of women in the executive pipeline.”

“There need to be women in influential roles such as Executive Directors.”

“The added dimension of COVID-19 means organisations must be proactive to address the long-term impact of the pandemic on women’s careers.”

“With more focus on flexible working and wellbeing, it is an opportunity to progress the diversity agenda.”

Alison Kay, EY UK&I Managing Partner for Client Service, added, “There is no doubt that targets have helped to improve diversity on UK boards, by setting a clear vision and keeping organisations on track.”

“However, as outlined in the report, targets must be coupled with action on cultural change to accelerate progress for future generations and spark a positive ripple effect that extends into the wider economy and society.”


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Alison Simpson
About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.

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