News Analysis

Progress on board diversity in the UK is “painfully slow”

by Stephen Conmy on Jun 16, 2021


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A new report shows that board diversity in the UK is not where it should be and that medium-sized firms are the worst offenders.

More than half of the 261 smaller companies listed on the London Stock Exchange’s main index still have all-male executive leadership teams.

When it comes to board diversity, less than half of the 261 firms have boards where women occupy at least 30% of the roles.

Board diversity in the UK

According to a new report by Women on Boards UK, most small businesses below the top layer of the FTSE 350 have been slow to embrace diversity at a leadership level.

As little as 7% of the companies below the FTSE 350 have a female chief executive or lead fund manager, while just 16% have a female chair.

“Progress on board diversity has been painfully slow, yet, recently, there has been a creeping sense that what has been achieved is ‘enough’ and no more effort is needed,” says Fiona Hathorn, chief executive of Women on Boards UK.

“This report categorically shows that more is needed.

“It exposes the hidden truth that, beyond the overall number of female non-executives, progress has been minimal. Our data also reveals a very significant proportion of FTSE All-Share firms are achieving little if any meaningful change as regards diversity and inclusion.”

Hathorn says that while some progress has been made over the past several years, much of this is driven by the biggest firms in the UK.

On the executive teams of 54% of the 261 smaller businesses, there was not a single woman. This compares to 8% of the larger FTSE 350 companies.

The data reveals a stark ‘diversity divide’ between those firms making progress on board diversity – and those who are not. In the 261 FTSE All-Share firms below the FTSE 350:

  • under 50% have met the target for 33% women on boards;
  • more than 50% have an all-male executive leadership team;
  • just 16% have any ethnic diversity on their boards;
  • and 37% have one or no female board members.
  • The report also found that the gender pay gap is worse in the FTSE All-Share than the national average and highest in the FTSE 350.

You can download and read the full report here.

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