Women and ethnic minorities still sidelined from leadership positions despite progress, says report

White men continue to dominate top executive leadership roles in FTSE 100 companies

Kate Ng
Wednesday 11 August 2021 14:22

Women and minority ethnic groups are still being overlooked for top leadership positions in big companies, a report has revealed.

White men continue to dominate top executive roles, whilst diverse leaders tend to “hold less influence, have lower salaries and are less likely to be on track to c-suite roles”, it said.

The report, published by recruitment consultancy Green Park, found that women and ethnic minorities were more likely to be “sidelined” into human resources and marketing roles, which “are traditionally less likely to lead to the top executive leadership spots”.

Having analysed the internal pipelines at FTSE 100 companies, Green Park found that although there has been improvement since 2014, women were disproportionately allocated to roles in these areas, with 62.4 per cent in human resources and 45.1 per cent in marketing and communications.

Across the FTSE 100 companies, there are just 36 women in total holding the top three leadership roles (Chair, CEO and CFO). This is an increase of 23 roles since the consultancy’s first analysis in 2014, where women made up 4.3 per cent of the top roles.

“At this rate of change (three additional females a year), it will be 2059 before women hold 50 per cent of the Top 3 roles,” said the report.

Among board and executive committee roles, female representation has continued to grow “steadily”. Green Park predicted that it will take eight years to achieve gender balance across both these areas.

However, the number of women being appointed as senior leaders has dipped over the last two years, falling from 28.9 per cent in 2019 to 28 per cent in 2021. The decline is particularly evident in eight of the 14 sectors analysed, including consumer goods, technology and industrials, which are all less diverse now than they were in 2014.

Baronness Helena Morrissey, a non-executive director at Green Park, said: “To achieve results at the most senior levels and to sustain progress for gender diversity on boards, leaders must believe diversity and inclusion is integral to the success of their firm and embed this into the business agenda.

“We need to see more leaders become true allies with their own goals bound together with this of their diverse talent,” she added.

The report also found that ethnic minority representation in top leadership roles remains stagnant at 3.7 per cent, with only one additional ethnic minority leader added since 2014 – a development it describes as “hugely disappointing”.

“One of the most significant findings from our 2020 survey was that for the first time since we began our analysis in 2014, at the UK’s largest companies there are no black Chairs, CEOs or CFOs,” wrote Trevor Phillips, chair of Green Park, in the report’s foreword.

“This has remained unchanged in the six months since and is the unfortunate but rather inevitable outcome of having failed to increase black executive leadership, which remains at 0.6 per cent, unchanged over eight years.”

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