‘More women than ever’ on company boards

Scottish Friendly Fiona McBain Chief Executive
Scottish Friendly Fiona McBain Chief Executive
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More women than ever are now at the top of UK companies, Westminster’s business minister has said, as figures reveal a rise in the number of females sitting on boards.

Statistics released by the Hampton-Alexander review show that for the first time the FTSE 250 could meet the target of 33 per cent of board positions going to women by 2020.

As of 1 June, 32.1 per cent of FTSE 100 board positions were held by women – up from 12.5 per cent in 2011.

There was also a rise in the FTSE 250 from 24.9 per cent in November last year to 27.5 per cent at the beginning of June, and in the FTSE 350 from 26.7 per cent to 29.1 per cent during the same period.

North of the Border, Royal Bank of Scotland now boasts five female directors out of a board of 14, including chief financial officer Katie Murray – while Scottish financial sector veteran and former chief executive of Scottish Friendly, Fiona McBain, is now a director of FTSE 100 insurer Direct Line.

All-male boards in the FTSE 350 fell from five in November to four in June – a reduction from 152 in 2011, according to the data.

Business minister Kelly Tolhurst said: “These latest figures show there are now more women than ever before at the top of UK business, and I want to see companies do all they can to increase the numbers further.

“Diversity makes good business sense and those who fail to see this as a priority are missing out on the benefits that diverse leadership brings.”

The Hampton-Alexander review was commissioned by the UK government in 2016 to deal with corporate gender inequality and set targets for Britain’s biggest companies – including having 33 per cent of women on their board and leadership team by 2020.

Sir Philip Hampton, who chairs the review, said: “The FTSE 250 is working hard to catch up but still too many boards have only one woman and remarkably today there are four all-male boards in the FTSE 250..”

The figures come after the Investment Association and the Hampton Alexander review jointly wrote to 69 companies on the FTSE 350 index in March with one female or less on their board – reprimanding them for a lack of gender diversity.

With 20 appointing more women since then, the IA and review said 14 companies have not responded and still have only one woman or less on their board.

These 14 businesses include Baillie Gifford Japan Trust, BCA Marketplace, Energean Oil and Gas, Ferrexpo, Telecom Plus and Herald Investment Trust.