Women on Boards 2024

Women on Boards 2024

In March 2014 Lord Davies of Abersoch’s third annual report into the representation of women on boards talked about a ‘culture change at the heart of British business.’ That change had seen women’s representation on boards almost doubling over the preceding three years to 20.7% for FTSE 100 companies and to 15.6% in FTSE 250 companies.

Reporting on this at the time we highlighted the fact that much of the improvement had come about through non-executive directorships and that boards now faced a long-term task in strengthening the executive pipeline in order to foster board diversity. Fast forward ten years and the fruits of that commitment to improved diversity are starting to be seen.

The latest FTSE Women Leaders Review released in February 2024 reports that ‘gender balance is in sight.’ Women’s representation on boards across the FTSE 350 has risen to 42.1% whilst representation in leadership lags slightly at 34.5%. When it comes to the UK’s top 50 private companies these figures come out at 31% and 36% respectively.

With overall boardroom representation having breached the 40% mark, the focus now turns to women in leadership with the aim of taking representation in this area above the 40% mark by the end of 2025. Representing the top two executive levels below the boardroom, the level of diversity seen in this leadership sector is not only indicative of a strong boardroom pipeline, it can also help to promote diversity and opportunity at lower levels through mentoring and identification of suitable candidates.

This pipeline is crucial if the progress seen over the past ten years is to be maintained. For example, when it comes to the FTSE 350, the report notes that despite several newly appointed women Chairs over the past year, any gains were offset by more women Chairs stepping down. On the other side of the coin, it should be noted that a gain seen in the proportion of women in leadership over the last year took place against a background of low turnover and a reduction in the total number of leadership roles.

Commenting on the results, the Review’s Co-Chair Penny James said: “We must build on the advances of recent years, supporting business to remove remaining barriers to progression and drive further change to increase the representation of women.” Echoing these comments her fellow Co-Chair Nimesh Patel said: “We need to achieve a more inclusive and equitable culture in business that celebrates our individuality rather than promoting an antiquated and very narrowly defined notion of talent.”

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