The drive to increase the number of women in boardrooms may have reached a milestone of success, but companies have also been warned that the latest research has found a “concerning lack” of women in other roles as well as high levels of “everyday sexism”.
Business secretary Andrea Leadsom revealed at the weekend that a third of all board positions in the FTSE 100 are now held by women, meeting a key target of the Hampton-Alexander Review that female representation reach 33% by 2020.
But there was an immediate warning about the low number of women in senior leadership and in key executive roles. The government says just 15% of FTSE 100 finance directors are currently women. Leadsom said that it was “clear that women continue to face barriers to success, whether that’s through promotion to key roles or how they are treated by colleagues.
“Businesses must do more to tackle these issues and we will support them in doing so, including through our world-leading reforms to workplace rights.”
Denise Wilson, chief executive of the Hampton-Alexander Review, said the FTSE 350 would need to work particularly hard this year.
“Half of all available appointments to FTSE 350 leadership roles need to go to women in 2020, not only to meet the 33% voluntary target, but to ensure UK business fully benefits from diverse perspectives and is availing itself of the whole talent pool,” she said.
‘Hostile workplace cultures’
The results of the latest review are accompanied by research from King’s College revealing that women in leadership face “everyday sexism, “micro-aggression” and “incivility” in the workplace on a disturbing scale.
The research found 33% of women reported “disrespectful remarks or insulting remarks” made about them, compared with 13% of men. More than a fifth, 23%, of women report being shouted at or sworn at in the workplace, compared with 16% of men.
A third of women 34% report receiving “the silent treatment at work”, while the figure for men was 23%.
Perhaps the most startling figure, however, is the number of women on the receiving end of “angry outbursts” or “temper tantrums”: 39%, against 23% of men.
According to Rosie Campbell, a professor and director of the Global Institute for Women in Leadership at King’s, said workplace cultures need to be changed if women are going to climb to the top.
“Where there are hostile workplace cultures, we simply can’t ask women to lean in and try harder to reach leadership positions,” she said.
“Instead we need to ensure undermining behaviour is called out, not rewarded, and build an inclusive environment that embraces diverse leaders and allows everyone to thrive and give their best work.”
CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn echoed the need for improved cultures in the workplace.
“We are still seeing too few women as the executive, day-to-day decision-makers of our leading companies—whether that’s as CEOs, MDs, or finance directors. Companies must do everything possible to create inclusive cultures and support talented people from all walks of life into these top jobs.”