Half of listed Scottish firms still short of women’s board member targets

Half of Scotland’s listed companies are adrift of gender balance targets in the boardroom with just one year left until the deadline, research released today suggests.

From left: Denise Wilson, CEO of Hampton-Alexander Review; Fiona Cannon, group director for responsibility and inclusion at Lloyds Banking Group; Catherine Burnet of KPMG; Jacqui Ferguson, advisory member of the First Minister's Council for Women and Girls; Melanie Richards, partner at KPMG; and Charles Berry of Weir Group.

The Hampton-Alexander review, an independent body set up to monitor the gender balance in FTSE 350 businesses, has found that seven of Scotland’s 14 publicly listed groups must improve boardroom diversity if they are to meet the UK government’s goal of 33 per cent female board member representation by December 2020.

Chair Sir Philip Hampton is calling for business leaders to take decisive action by ensuring that 50 per cent of all leadership position appointments next year are women.

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It comes the day after banking group TSB announced it has pushed back its own independent target for about half of its senior jobs to be held by women by up to five years.

Hampton said: “This is the penultimate Hampton-Alexander Review report and we enter our final year with great momentum behind us. If this progress continues into 2020, our targets for women on boards will be met.

“Whilst this is a key indicator of change at the top, strengthening the number of women in executive positions is critical to achieving long-term gender balance.”

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'For too long, women have faced obstacles'

The review praised progress since last year, when just three of the then ten FTSE 350 businesses from Scotland were led by boards comprising a third or more female members. These were Scottish Investment Trust, Aggreko and Wood Group, where female representation has since slipped back to 27.3 per cent.

In the past year Standard Life Aberdeen, Royal Bank of Scotland, Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust, Aberforth, and Cairn Energy have all met or exceeded the 33 per cent threshold.

Across the UK, women’s representation in the senior leadership of FTSE 100 companies has edged higher to 28.6 per cent, up from 27 per cent in 2018, while the FTSE 250 has seen a stronger increase, with women’s representation rising to 27.9 per cent, up from 24.9 per cent a year earlier. There remain 44 all-male executive committees.

Catherine Burnet, senior partner at KPMG, which sponsored the review, said: “For too long now, women have faced unnecessary obstacles, damaging their prospects and compromising the opportunities that a truly balanced board creates for a growth-hungry company.

“The Hampton-Alexander Review has played a crucial role in driving the change. We need to keep that momentum up and ensure that Scotland’s FTSE 350 business community truly reflects modern Scottish society.”