The FTSE 100 won’t reach CEO gender parity until 2076, new analysis finds

The research comes as INvolve, the consultancy and global network for diversity, equity and inclusion in business, releases its annual Heroes Women Role Model Lists supported by YouTube celebrating leaders who are championing women in business and driving change for gender diversity in the workplace. This year’s list represents 20 countries, celebrating the global work being done to create equitable workplaces for women.

At the current rate of change, new analysis by diversity, equity and inclusion consultancy and global network INvolve has indicated that it will take until 2076 for half of the FTSE 100 to have a woman CEO.

With the average age of a FTSE 100 CEO being 56 years old, this means the first women to have an ‘equal’ chance of becoming a FTSE 100 CEO as their male peers are currently three years old, most likely starting pre-school this month.

The research, released to mark the release of INvolve’s annual Heroes Women Role Model Lists, demonstrates that whilst there has been some progress, with the number of women CEOs increasing from just one in 2013 to ten in 2023, change needs to happen fast if we are to see gender equality at the helm of UK businesses long before 2076.

Clearly, efforts made to ensure women are offered the same opportunities as men within business, such as the targets for board gender diversity which have been met and exceeded, are not translating into change at the CEO level. And while the analysis centred CEOs of the FTSE 100 specifically, this issue is endemic across all leadership and companies in the UK. To accelerate the rate of change in years to come, all businesses must openly demonstrate their commitment to equity for women at work.

Suki Sandhu OBE, Founder and CEO of INvolve, says:

“The fact that there are more women in CEO positions now than there were ten years ago demonstrates the progress that has been made and the appetite for change within UK businesses. However, as our analysis demonstrates, the work being done for gender equality currently is clearly not moving the needle fast enough and it’s extremely disappointing. We shouldn’t have to and will not wait until 2076 to see women being offered the same opportunities as men and making it to CEO positions in the UK at the same rate as their male counterparts.

The FTSE 100 should be leading the way for all other businesses, ensuring women and men are represented equally at all levels. This might include deploying development programmes designed specifically for women to support them into senior roles, or flexible working arrangements to fit around childcare or other responsibilities and ensure they can remain at work and excel in their roles.

It’s a real concern that the problem of senior women leaving the workforce, alongside the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic during which women disproportionately lost or left their jobs, means that gender parity may not be reached even by 2076. To have a fighting chance, an immediate step that companies large and small can take is to implement robust menopause support policies to support the estimated 13 million women of menopause age at work in the UK. Given the average age of a CEO is similar to that of a woman going through menopause, supporting these women is one way to make them more likely to be able to naturally progress into CEO positions.”

Karen Blackett OBE, UK President of WPP, who tops the 2023 list of Heroes Women Executives:

“Very simply put, what I have witnessed and experienced when we have more women in leadership roles is better decision-making (due to less group-think), more inclusivity and empathetic leadership. We know these traits have a positive impact on our teams: individuals feel less pressured to mask and cover who they are, egos are actively encouraged to be left at the door and people feel more empowered to show up and contribute. All of this leads to a more open culture, even greater creativity and a happier workforce.

When a woman is in a leadership role, you know that she has faced many personal and professional barriers in order to succeed. Don’t get me wrong, so have our male counterparts, however, the statistics show that there are fewer women leaders across U.K. businesses. Women are often given the opportunity to lead in the most challenging of situations when a business is in crisis or a turnaround is needed. That ability to connect with others, manage conflict, supercharge creativity and deliver, is nothing short of inspiring.”

Thamina Stoll, Women@ LinkedIn Global External Network Lead and Senior Client Solutions Manager at LinkedIn, is named at number one in the Heroes Women Future Leaders List:

“I’m ecstatic about this recognition. Thank you to the entire INvolve x YouTube team for giving me the opportunity to share my story and thereby supporting my life’s purpose of being a hype woman for other women!

There’s this misconception that diversity and equity is a zero-sum game but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Companies that have more women on their boards and in senior leadership positions are financially more successful than companies that have less diverse leadership. Therefore, creating more inclusive workplaces is not only the morally right thing to do, it’s also the most economically sound thing to do.

Organisations can only succeed in creating inclusive workplaces if their leaders truly believe in the transformative power and strategic importance of having more women in leadership positions. But it requires the right leaders at the top to recognise that. The days where people follow overly polished, aloof, cutthroat “leaders” in black suits are long over. We need leaders who address and work on implementing solutions that solve for systemic barriers like the motherhood penalty, inclusive parental leave policies, or the likability penalty with a special focus on women whose identities intersect with other marginalized social dimensions.”

Christoph Schweizer, Chief Executive Offer at Boston Consulting Group (BCG), is named the leading Advocate Executive in the 2023 list:

Although many companies have made progress toward gender equity, it has been frustratingly slow. The good news is that we know what works: we need to actively tackle biases in people systems and processes, measure and track progress, communicate clear aspirations, and – most importantly – focus on a culture of inclusion. Our research at BCG shows that everyone benefits from a culture of inclusion. Teams are happier, more motivated, more ambitious, and more resilient across the board which, unsurprisingly, leads to higher levels of innovation and value.

The full Heroes Women Role Model Lists can be found here.

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