More women on UK boards but top jobs out of reach - report

by Kieran Guilbert | KieranG77 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 9 November 2017 17:12 GMT

A woman poses on-board a yacht with Canary Wharf behind at the London Boat Show at the ExCeL centre in London, January 6, 20011. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Image Caption and Rights Information
"Companies are simply looking to get women into board seats to hit short-term diversity targets rather than creating cultures where the best people get the job"

By Kieran Guilbert

LONDON, Nov 9 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More women are sitting on the boards of Britain's largest 100 companies, with big gains in the traditional male bastions of building and manufacturing, yet very few hold the top jobs, a report said on Thursday.

Women hold 28 percent of directors' seats on the boards of FTSE 100 companies, against 11 percent a decade ago, putting Britain on track to meet a target of one in three by 2020, said the Cranfield School of Management and Exeter University.

Drinks maker Diageo, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline and clothing retailer Next are some of the top firms in Britain when it comes to female leadership - with women making up at least 40 percent of board members, according to the report.

Yet while the percentage of women in non-executive roles at FTSE 100 firms has risen to 33 percent from 15 percent since 2007, they hold only a tenth of executive directorships: the most senior roles which involve day-to-day running of a firm.

"Companies are simply looking to get women into board seats to hit short-term diversity targets rather than creating cultures where the best people get the job irrespective of gender," said Griselda Togobo of business group Forward Ladies.

"We will see the numbers start to even out ... only when companies truly embrace the need for diversity in boardroom discussions and progress beyond tokenism and box ticking," Togobo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email.

Only six FTSE 100 companies have women at the helm as chief executive officer, while 14 hold senior independent directorships, said the 'Female FTSE' report, which also analysed women's leadership roles at Britain's FTSE 250 firms.

While sectors such as construction, manufacturing and mining have made strides in boosting women's representation on boards, others such as real estate, wholesale, retail and transport services saw a dip compared to last year, the report found.

In a separate report, the government-backed Hampton-Alexander review said a voluntary target agreed last year - that 33 percent of boardroom seats be held by women - should go beyond the FTSE 100 and cover Britain's biggest 350 firms.

"Today's report is a timely reminder of how far we still have to go to ensure capable women can progress from entry level to senior management positions," Carolyn Fairbairn, head of the Confederation of British Industry, said in a statement.

Britain in April become one of the first countries to require large firms, those with at least 250 workers, to report pay discrepancies between male and female employees by law - as part of a push to promote gender equality in the workplace. (Writing By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.