Let’s begin with the positives – of which there are many. It is certainly encouraging to see that, in aggregate, all FTSE 100 companies and FTSE 250 companies have met – in fact: exceeded – Hampton-Alexander’s 33% target of women on their board by the end of 2020. Another positive I took from the report is that the percentage of female Non-Executive Directors (NEDs) in FTSE 100 boardrooms stands at an all-time high of 44.4%, while the equivalent figure in FTSE 250 boardrooms is 41.2%.
But the further I look beyond the headline figures, the more work I see ahead of us. For example, there is still a wide variance in the rate of progress between different companies: 21% of FTSE 100 boards and 32% of FTSE 250 boards have not yet reached Hampton-Alexander’s 33% target. The authors of the report are frank in their response to this finding, noting: “It is time to address the problem of these recalcitrant companies who do not take gender diversity seriously.”
Another cause for concern is the number of women who hold executive positions at board level. On the FTSE 100, just 31 (13.7%) women hold executive directorships in 27 companies while the equivalent figure on the FTSE 250 is 47 (11.3%) in 45 companies. There are eight women in CEO roles, 26 in CFO/FD roles and four in COO roles on the FTSE 250; while on the FTSE 100, there are now eight women in CEO roles and 15 in CFO/FD roles.
So, what do businesses need to focus on next to ensure – in the spirit of the Female FTSE Board Report – inclusion works for everyone? The four main themes to emerge from the report provide a good starting point. First, having a critical mass of women on boards is important, but not enough. Second succession planning and serious talent management are essential. The third point to keep in mind is that women in senior roles send out a powerful message but the roles of the CEO and Chair are crucial. And finally, rather than gender diversity being a trickle-down process, it is more likely to be generative.