A government-backed review has found that, of the top 350 companies in the UK,

almost one in four have only one woman on their board while five have none at all. 

The 2018 Hampton-Alexander Review report also revealed that five of these companies have no women on their boards at all. This means that, in order to hit the government’s target of a third of women in senior leadership positions by 2020, half the appointments to FTSE 350 board positions will have to be filled by women over the next two years.

On the plus side over 100 FTSE 350 companies have achieved (and in some cases exceeded) the 33 per cent target for women on boards, with a further 50 well on their way. In addition the top 100 companies which make up the FTSE 100 index are on track to hit the target with more than 30 per cent of board positions occupied by women. 

Four FTSE 100 companies - retailer Next, online real estate provider Rightmove, financial services provider Hargreaves Lansdown, and household goods and construction company Taylor Wimpey - have 50 per cent or more women on their boards; while six FTSE 250 companies have met the same threshold.

The Hampton-Alexander Review (chaired by Sir Philip Hampton, and previously the late Dame Helen Alexander) published its first report in November 2016, recommending that there should be a:

  • 33 per cent target for women on FTSE 350 Boards by the end of 2020
  • 33 per cent target for women on FTSE 350 executive committees and direct reports to the executive committee on a combined basis by 2020
  • Target for FTSE 350 companies to increase the number of women roles of chair, senior independent director and into executive director positions on their boards

The government is also working to address workplace diversity by:

  • introducing a Race at Work Charter for businesses to increase ethnic minority representation in the workplace
  • proposing mandatory ethnicity pay reporting to help address significant disparities in the pay and progression of ethnic minority employees

Neil Todd of Thompsons Solicitors commented: Whilst not wholly devoid of good news the report illustrates just how far many companies have to travel until diversity and gender equality are properly embedded into their culture. It is not only a principle of fundamental importance to achieve this but also something which independent research illustrates will significantly strengthen the economy as whole.

To access the report, go to the government website