Nearly 40% of all directorships at top UK listed companies are now held by women, catapulting Britain to second place globally in female representation on boards of directors, a report showed.
The government-backed FTSE Women Leaders Review revealed that 39.1% of board positions are held by women in FTSE 100 companies, up from 36.2% in 2020 and 12.5% a decade ago.
This means that the UK has now jumped from fifth place last year to second place in the international rankings at the FTSE 100 level, behind France, which has 43.8% of board positions held by women.
Britain has overtaken countries such as Norway, which imposes a mandatory quota system on companies.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “UK companies have made tremendous progress in recent years to ensure that everyone, regardless of background, can succeed on merit and today’s findings highlight this with more women at the top of the table. of Britain’s biggest companies than ever before.
But the report showed a drop in FTSE 100 executive committee positions held by women, to 25.9% in 2021 from 26.5% in 2020, with just eight women executives in blue chip companies and 10 in the FTSE 250.
It also found that only one in three leadership roles is held by women, and there are still 72 FTSE 350 companies that have yet to meet the previous target of 33% of women in senior management roles.
Liz Truss, Minister for Women and Equality, said: “It’s great to see progress being made, but we know there is more to be done.”
She said: “We will soon introduce a series of measures to advance equality for women at work, increasing opportunities and addressing the issues that are holding women back, while looking to ensure that everyone can reach their full potential.”
The report, which follows the earlier Hampton Alexander Review, has outlined a set of recommendations, on a voluntary basis so far, including increasing the target of female representation on the board to 40% by the end of 2025.
It also wants all FTSE 350 companies to have a female chairman or senior independent director role on the board, or a female executive director or chief financial officer by the end of 2025.
And the review, which currently tracks progress across 24,000 board and leadership positions, revealed plans to extend its scope to the top 50 private sector companies by sales.
The report’s findings were well received by the entire business community, but there were calls for progress on diversity goals to become a reporting requirement and extended to smaller listed companies as well.
Alison Owers, Global Chief Executive of Orient Capital, part of Link Group, said: “Institutional investors are using their votes to encourage diversity and the inclusion of women and other minority groups on boards.
“Diversity initiatives need to become a ‘business as usual’ agenda item for company reporting requirements.
“Minimum representation is not enough, and companies need to go beyond the 40% gender target if they want to make significant social and business change,” he added.