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Britain’s most successful companies have women in senior roles

Jack Torrance
Companies with lots of women executives, such as GSK's Emma Walmsley, tend to perform better, research suggests  - AFP

Britain’s most successful companies tend to have a large proportion of women in senior management roles but the UK lags behind the US and Australia on diversity at the top, new research suggests.

Between 2011 and 2015, the most gender diverse quarter of companies were 20pc more likely than the least diverse to have above average financial performance, a report by management consultants McKinsey found.

Dame Vivian Hunt, who runs McKinsey’s UK business, said: “The correlation between diversity and financial performance is clear across different sectors and geographies: more diverse teams equals significant financial outperformance.”

The proportion of women on FTSE boards has soared since 2011 amid government and shareholder pressure to boost diversity at the top. But while women now make up around a third of non-executive directors, their representation among senior management teams is much lower.

The research showed UK firms are well above the global average with around 15pc of executive roles held by women, but they drag behind their rivals in the US, on 19pc, and Australia on 21pc. Even with the promotion of GKN's Anne Stevens last week, just eight FTSE 100 companies currently have women chief executives, up from six in 2016.

From April, all UK companies with at least 250 staff will be forced to publish the gap between what they pay men and women in an effort to encourage firms to level the playing field.

Lady Barbara Judge, the first female chairman of the Institute of Directors, told The Daily Telegraph last week: “The main cause of the [pay] gap is the fact fewer women progress up the work ladder than men. Much more must be done to ensure more women reach the executive level.”

Gender gap for CEOs

The McKinsey research also found correlation between ethnic diversity and financial performance, particularly in the UK. Globally, those companies with a low proportion of both female and ethnic minority executives were 29pc more likely to financially underperform than their peers.

Financial services firms top the charts for gender diversity, while telecoms, media and technology companies were the best for ethnic diversity, the report said.

Dame Hunt said: “Companies promote diversity for many reasons. Our research shows that central among these should be the fact that diversity has a demonstrable relationship to inclusive growth and longer-term value creation, particularly when it is found at the executive level.”