NEWS8 July 2016

Government backs push for women in the boardroom

Finance Media News People Public Sector Trends UK

UK – As the Conservative party is about to choose a female Prime Minister for only the second time in UK history, the government has set a target for FTSE 350 companies to have 33% women on boards by 2020.


It has also launched a new review on women in senior leadership and appointed ad agency AMV BBDO’s group chairman and CEO, Cilla Snowball, as the new chair of the Women’s Business Council (WBC).

This comes as Cranfield University School of Management has released The Female FTSE Board Report 2016 which says that "progress among the executive ranks and in the executive pipeline remains very slow". Female executive directorships stand at 9.7% in the FTSE100 and 5.6% in the FTSE250.

To meet the 33% target for FTSE 350 boards by 2020, a constant turnover is required and an appointment rate of one in three board positions going to women. Recently turnover rates have decreased, with fewer people leaving and joining companies, and the percentage of new appointments going to women over the past six months dropping below the one in three required.

Susan Vinnicombe, professor of women and leadership at Cranfield University and co-author of the Female FTSE Board Report 2016, said: "The focus on boards must be preserved as the pace of change has not kept up after the Davies Closing Report. To hit the 33% board target by 2020, chairmen and search consultants must ensure the board appointment process remains robust, transparent and gender-inclusive."

A group of leaders from a range of influential and successful British companies have been brought together to help deliver on the targets set for female representation in business. It will be led by Sir Philip Hampton, chair of GlaxoSmithKline and Dame Helen Alexander, chair of UBM and they will carry out a new review focusing on ensuring the best female talent reaches the top of business in FTSE350 companies.

A key element of the review will also consider current research on how to drive improvements and the obstacles preventing women’s progression. It is expected that findings will be presented to government by the end of 2016.

Snowball said: "The refreshed council will now extend its reach across more sectors than ever before; providing valuable insight into how to tackle the barriers to women’s progression and shining a light on the benefits to business of harnessing the skills, experience and talents of women throughout industry."

Melanie Richards, vice-chair at KPMG, a business supporter of the report, said: "I believe the barrier to female progression exists not in the boardroom, but deeper within the business. We need to redouble our efforts and look beyond the board to the executive layer, and rethink how we recruit, retain and promote our people. Only through this systemic change will we level the playing field for women working in business."