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Half of firms outside FTSE 350 have no female top bosses

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Half of listed UK firms outside the biggest 350 companies have no female senior bosses and more than 40% are still failing to meet targets for women in the boardroom, according to research.

This year’s Women on Boards UK report revealed that while progress has been made on gender equality at the top of British All Share companies, there is still “a long way to go”.

The annual study – called the Hidden Truth About Diversity and Inclusion in the FTSE All Share – found that 50% of UK firms in the FTSE All-Share excluding the 350 have no women in executive roles – down from 54% in 2021, but still “shockingly high” when compared to counterparts in the FTSE 350, where only 4.6% of firms have all-male leadership teams.

Just 7% of chief executives in the FTSE All Share ex-350 are women, the report revealed.

It also said 44% of listed companies outside of the top and second tiers have yet to achieve the target of 33% women on their boards, with a quarter of boards still all-male or with only one woman.

This compares with 79% of firms in the FTSE 100 and 250 who have met the target.

The findings come days after the European Union agreed a landmark deal that will see companies face mandatory quotas to ensure women have at least 40% of seats on corporate boards.

Those that fail to meet the target will face potential fines.

Fiona Hathorn, chief executive of Women on Boards UK, said: “The data shows small gains compared to last year, which is a positive indication that UK firms are starting to take boardroom diversity seriously.”

She added it was “incredibly disheartening” to see progress still not being made in some areas.

“There remains a high number of firms yet to reach even the most minimal levels of diverse representation, at both executive and non-executive level. To these firms I say, catch up – and quickly,” she said.

Janet Barberis, managing director at global consulting firm Protiviti, which helped compile the report, said the research “has shown that there is still a long way to go in terms of achieving gender equality on boards and at the C-Suite level”.

The report showed that three-quarters of firms in the FTSE All Share ex-350 have entirely white boards, down from 84% in 2021.

But it also found that only 8% of executive leaders on FTSE All Share ex-350 boards are from UK ethnic minority backgrounds.

Ms Barberis said: “It is clear that diversity is good for a company’s bottom line and vital to success, and a lack of diversity is increasingly perceived as a reputational risk.

“It is therefore extremely important that promoting diversity remains a top priority for management teams, and that data on diversity is readily available and shared transparently, which is what makes these findings so important.”

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