International Women’s Day has been marked by news that, although women now hold 40% of all board positions in the FTSE 100, they currently only occupy 28% of executive roles.
According to the European gender diversity barometer compiled by Ethics & Boards, a governance adviser, and ecoDa, the European body for institutes of directors, only 24.3% of executives across Europe are women. When it comes to the most senior role of chief executive, the position worsens. Only 9% of FTSE 100 CEOs are women; the proportion in Europe is 7.7%.
There is more dispiriting news. When UK boards are taken as whole, 15% still have no female executives at all, marginally better than the 18% in Europe.
Alexandra Hall-Chen, policy adviser for sustainability, skills and employment at the Institute of Directors, a member of ecoDa, says the FTSE 100 may be leading European counterparts, but much work remains:
“UK boards have made excellent progress in improving female representation in the past decade, and the barometer demonstrates the FTSE 100 is ahead of the curve on boardroom gender diversity in Europe,” she said. “However, the job is not done, with more work needed to improve female representation in executive leadership positions.”
The Barometer of Gender Diversity in Governing Bodies in Europe looks at 16 stock exchanges that make up the STOXX Europe 600, among them the FTSE 100.
Across Europe, around 80% of boards are reaching compliance with the EU’s law on gender balance, which states that 33.3% of boardroom members must be women.
While the UK performs well for female board members, other countries have greater female participation at the highest levels. In France’s CAC 40, 46% of board seats are occupied by women, while in the Netherlands, the figure is 42%. Italy comes in at 41%.
Increasing the NEDs
But it has been clear for some time that gender balance targets have been met in most states through the appointment of non-executives. The development of female executive talent has lagged behind. After Norway, which has 30% of female executive leaders, the UK performs equal second best on this score with Sweden and Finland, all at 28%. France has 26% and Switzerland 25%.
And while in the UK, 15% of boards may still be without women, in Luxembourg the figure is 78%, in Austria 70% and Italy 35%.
According to Leena Linnainmaa, ecoDa’s chair, all companies must see diversity and inclusion as a concern. “The presence of women in the management bodies of the company should no longer be a subject of discussion in 2023.”
Meanwhile, Ethics & Board founder and chair, Floriane de Saint Pierre, says: “If companies have broken the glass ceiling of the boards of listed companies, attention should now be paid more specifically to the leading positions, namely with P&L responsibilities, at the executive level.”
The figures suggest International Women’s Day is needed just as much as ever.