Voluntary targets are not working for women

Voluntary targets have boosted gender diversity on UK boards, but new research by Cranfield University’s School of Management warns that there are still too few women in senior leadership positions, such as CEO and Chair, to drive long-term change.

The annual Female FTSE Board Report, sponsored by EY, finds that although the FTSE 350 looks on track to reach the target of 33% of women on boards by December 2020, a lack of representation at the very top could be impacting the number of women in the executive pipeline.

The most notable increase in female representation is among Non-Executive Director (NED) roles. In the FTSE 100 the percentage of female NEDs is at an all-time high of 40.8%, while the percentage of female executives has risen only slightly to 13.2%.

Canfield University’s Sue Vinnicombe explained: “Our research establishes that it is not sufficient just to have a critical mass of women Non-Executive Directors on a board in order to increase the number of women in the executive pipeline. There need to be women in influential roles such as Executive Directors. The added dimension of Covid-19 means organisations must be pro-active to address the long-term impact of the pandemic on women’s careers. With more focus on flexible working and wellbeing, it is an opportunity to progress the diversity agenda.”