Work continues to increase the number of women on boards

Sir Philip Hampton, chairman of GlaxoSmithKline has been appointed to increase the number of women executives – and to ensure some are appointed to board level – within FTSE 350 companies. Dame Helen Alexander, Chair of UBM, was appointed deputy chair to the review.

The UK government said Sir Philip’s review will continue on from Lord Davies’s Women on Boards Review, a voluntary business led initiative, which saw female representation on boards in the FTSE 100 rise from 12.5% to beyond the target of 25%.

However, as was recently noted by the director-general of the CBI, Carolyn Fairburn, most of these appointments were to the role of non-executive directors, and more women leaders were required at all levels of a company. The government said the next phase of the review will focus on building the pipeline for female executives and emerging non-executive directors, to continue the work already done on increasing board representation.

Sarah Wilson, CEO of Manifest commented that, “Since 1996 there has been a worrying trend to drastically reduce the number of executive directors on boards- often down to just the CEO and CFO. Companies could make significant gains in board diversity – across all dimensions, not just gender, simply by doubling the number of executive directors on the main board. This can be accomplished without negatively impacting their NED independence under the UK governance code”.

From this year Manifest will be flagging up low levels of executives on company boards in its research.

Women and Equalities Minister Nicky Morgan said, “Having more women on FTSE boards allows companies to benefit from the enormous wealth of talent these women offer, and means these women can act as powerful role models for the next generation of girls.

“We have come a long way but we must do more to make sure women everywhere are able to fulfil their potential.”

However, there was widely reported criticism by Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, of the appointment of another man to lead a review into raising the profile of women in FTSE 350 companies.

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