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For the first time ever, the percentage of women in board roles at Britain’s biggest listed companies has risen above 40% – up from just 9.5% 11 years ago. This is fantastic progress as it means that a diversity target has been achieved three years ahead of the schedule set by the FTSE Women Leaders Review, an independent, business-led framework supported by the government. 

The FTSE Women Leaders Review revealed that the representation of women on boards in the blue-chip FTSE 100 companies and the mid-sized FTSE 250 companies increased by 3% in 2022. Furthermore, the number of male-only executive teams in the FTSE 350 is now just 10, down from 16 the year before. However, the report also exposed that, at leadership positions below the board level, only 33.5% of the executive committee or their direct reports are women. 

Improving diversity in leadership positions has become a focus for many shareholders and policyholders who say that a broader range of experiences and perspectives is crucial for business growth and improves company culture and decision-making. 

Commenting on the report, Kemi Badenoch, the business and trade secretary, and women’s equality minister said, “This progress is very welcome, and I’d urge business to keep up this momentum to achieve better balance in leadership positions as well as in boardrooms.” 

Britain does not have a mandatory quota system for women in executive and management positions at listed companies, unlike countries such as Belgium, Norway, Germany, and France, making the move towards greater inclusivity even more impressive. 

“It’s really good and important that we are seeing progress on this issue. We shouldn’t think that means the job is done.” said Jemima Olchawski the chief executive of the Fawcett Society, a UK charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights. She added that she is concerned about “the extent to which some firms are free-riding on the strong performance of others” and that the government should push businesses to advertise more flexible working options when recruiting for jobs, as well as encouraging more men to take up the opportunity for shared parental leave. 

Overall, the disparity at board level has improved and there is at least 1 woman on the boards of every single one of the 350 boards investigated. According to research reported in women leaders review, just over a decade ago, 152 boards were composed only of men, so a great deal of progress has been made in a relatively short period of time. This puts the UK second in the world, behind only France. This year there was a decrease in the proportion of all-men executives within the FTSE 350 from 16, in 2021, to 10. 

The government is anticipating that by 2025, the number of women in leadership positions will increase past 40% and that this target is “on track”.  

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