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UK companies are recruiting fewer women to boardrooms as gender diversity progress stalls for first time

In France 57 per cent of new top-level recruits were female, compared to just 29 per cent in Britain

Ben Chapman
Wednesday 08 February 2017 12:02 GMT
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progress on recruiting women into executive positions has also flatlined - EasyJet CEO, Carolyn McCall is one of only six female FTSE100 chiefs
progress on recruiting women into executive positions has also flatlined - EasyJet CEO, Carolyn McCall is one of only six female FTSE100 chiefs (Getty)

Of the new recruits to UK boards in 2016, 29 per cent were women, down from 32.1 per cent in 2014 and 31.6 per cent in 2012, according to a report which is published every two years by recruitment firm Egon Zehnder.

In Western Europe the figure for 2016 was 35.4 per cent. France led the way with 57 per cent hiring rate. It is the first time that the rate of improvement in gender diversity has declined in the UK since Egon Zender began collecting data in 2004.

The number of women on executive committees of FTSE 100 companies has also stayed flat since 2015, the research found.

​Rajeev Vasudeva, chief executive of Egon Zehnder said: “A modern organisation is only as successful as its leadership’s ability to navigate a near-constant state of change and the momentum for achieving gender parity is simply not occurring at the pace of progress required.”

Globally, the research indicated improvements have been made, with just under 20 per cent of board positions at the 1,491 large companies studied, filled by women, up from 14 per cent in 2012. The number of companies with no female board members has dropped to 16 per cent from 24 per cent in 2012.

However, several large economies have made little progress on gender diversity, the data showed. Men outnumber women in Russia’s boardrooms by 8 to one and in China’s by 18 to one.

In total, 16 of the 44 countries studied had an average of three female directors per board - the level Egon Zender said it believes is needed to create the, “critical mass… needed for transformative change”.

In 11 countries, including Russia, South Korea and Saudi Arabia, more than 50 per cent of boards studied had no women at all. Globally, the research found men chaired 95 per cent of all boards in 2016, barely an improvement from 96 per cent in 2014.

For executive roles, the disparity is equally as stark. Just 4 per cent of chief executives and 11 per cent of chief financial officers were women in 2016.

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