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Four in 10 FTSE giants still fail to meet female board member targets

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Four in 10 of the UK’s top 350 companies have failed to meet a target to ensure women make up a third of their boards, but they have until December 2020 to fix the ‘gender diversity’ ratio.

In 2016, the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review set a minimum 33% voluntary target for women on FTSE 350 boards and in senior leadership (two layers below the board).

For the first time, more than a third of board members across the FTSE 350 as a whole are women.

And despite the coronavirus crisis, representation of women at the top of business has risen 3.8% in the last year, according to provisional figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

However, data reveals that on an individual company level, four in 10 FTSE 350 companies have failed to reach the gender target.

There are also 18 boards within the FTSE 250 which operate a ‘one and done’ policy where companies appoint just a single woman board member.

There is also one all-male board, though BEIS said this figure is down from 152 all-male boards in 2011.

Business secretary, Alok Sharma, is now urging all companies to meet the voluntary target by the end of December 2020.

He 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.”

The gender collection data is an annual process and firms are required to submit this between 2 and 30 November. A full list of the companies and their data will be published soon.

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