Women make up more than a third of all board members across the FTSE 350 for the first time

For the first time more than a third of board members in the UK’s top 350 companies as a whole are women, new data has shown.

The figures show a continued increase in representation of women on the boards of the FTSE 350 companies. Despite the challenges faced by businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic, representation of women at the top of business has risen by 3.8% in the last year.

While the FTSE 350 as a whole has met the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review’s target to make 33% of board members women individually, some businesses are still failing to meet the mark.

The latest data shows that 41% of FTSE 350 companies have not reached 33% woman representation, and Business Secretary Alok Sharma is now calling for all companies to take action to ensure they reach the target ahead of the end of December 2020.

Concerningly, the data has also revealed that 18 boards within the FTSE 250 remain ‘one and done’ boards, where companies appoint a single woman board member and go no further. There is also one all-male board – this figure is down from 152 all-male boards in 2011.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “While I am pleased that the FTSE 350 as a whole has finally hit this historic landmark, more than 100 of the UK’s top companies have failed to meet the target. Research shows that diverse leadership teams are more innovative and make better decisions. As the UK economy continues to recover from coronavirus, increasing representation of women on boards represents a golden opportunity not only to rebuild, but build back better.”

Denise Wilson OBE, Chief Executive of the Hampton Alexander Review said: “Recognising the significant impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on all business activities, it is encouraging to see the number of women at the top of British business continue to increase.

“This confirms the UK’s business-led voluntary approach is working and the benefits of diversity are being recognised, with business seeking more than ever those with fresh energy, new ideas and diverse perspectives.”

Sir Phillip Hampton, Chair of the Hampton-Alexander Review said: “My thanks to the many companies that have already met or exceeded the 33% target and are now reaping the benefits of gender diverse teams. The progress we have seen over this last decade, is down to the collective and inclusive efforts of all of our stakeholders.”

Industry reaction

Chris Cummings, Chief Executive of the Investment Association, said: “The deadline for companies to meet the 33% target for gender diversity across their board and senior leadership teams is now fast approaching. Although good progress has been made with many companies recently appointing additional women to their boards and senior leadership teams, some laggards remain.

“On behalf of investors, I want to send a rallying cry to those companies that now is the time to take action and demonstrate real change. Diversity results in better decision-making and plays an essential role in a company’s long-term success and investors expect companies, at a minimum, to meet the target set.”