Women set to lag men on City boards for another 15 years

Seventy per cent of companies on the FTSE 350 still have no female executives on their main board, as the coronavirus pandemic looks set to delay the prospects for gender parity even further.

The rate of increase for female appointments has slowed rapidly in 2021, according to a report from gender diversity consultancy The Pipeline.

Instead of achieving parity in 2032 as previously predicted, this is now likely to happen in 2036.

The consultancy’s Women Count 2021 report found that among the FTSE 350, just 5% of companies have women as their chief executives.

READ Credit Suisse, BNY Mellon, Deloitte, Monzo among 44 firms that failed diversity pledge as Covid hit

Women leaders are better at achieving a more gender balanced executive committee, the authors find, as they appoint four times the number of women on average than their male peers.

When it comes to other key roles such as chief financial officer, often seen as a solid stepping stone to the top job, women still account for fewer than one in five of those holding the position.

This is despite the fact that the research suggests greater female representation at executive level can lead to higher profit margins for firms; an additional £123bn in profits is on offer if companies with less than 33% women on their executive committee performed as well as those with 33% or more, according to the study.

Writing in the foreword to the report, Investment Association chairman Keith Skeoch said: “We see the devastation Covid has caused; as business leaders, we also understand that these situations provide an opportunity for innovation and transformation. It seems that we are not yet using this opportunity to transform the way we work, instead opting for what we call stability. The risk to this is that we do not widen the pathways for talented women, so they continue to leave in large numbers.”

READ UBS sheds light on diversity in its UK operation for the first time

The figures come as regulators and central banks look to promote greater diversity across financial services.

The Financial Conduct Authority has considered using the City’s listing rules to boost gender diversity, while the Bank of England and the Prudential Regulation Authority have mooted linking pay to meeting representation targets.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Justin Cash

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