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Share of women on boards of big UK companies hits all-time high of 30%

‘Thirty per cent is the number at which a minority group starts to become heard and considered – that target is our floor, not our ceiling,’ says Ann Cairns of the 30% Club

Olesya Dmitracova
Economics and Business Editor
Wednesday 02 October 2019 11:59 BST
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(Getty)

The proportion of women on the boards of Britain’s large public companies has reached 30 per cent for the first time in history, a campaign group has said.

The 30% Club, a multinational group that promotes greater representation of women on boards, said women now hold 903 out of 3,008 board positions at the 350 biggest companies by market capitalisation listed on the London Stock Exchange.

In 2010, when the 30% Club was founded, the share stood at only 9.5 per cent. The group has been campaigning to hit the 30 per cent target by 2020 before lifting the number of female corporate leaders further.

“Thirty per cent is the number at which a minority group starts to become heard and considered – that target is our floor, not our ceiling,” said Ann Cairns, global co-chair of the 30% Club and executive vice-chair of Mastercard.

Her co-chair and PwC partner Brenda Trenowden added: “This is an incredible milestone on the journey towards greater diversity and gender parity on company boards. The fact that we’ve met our 2020 target ahead of time means the narrative is working.”

Ms Trenowden, who was awarded a CBE in 2018, said research has shown that more diverse boards contribute to better overall business performance.

In relation to gender diversity, research by Rebecca Moss at the University of Nottingham published last year found that female board directors significantly improve banks’ performance during a financial crisis.

Her findings provide support for the business case for more female directors, “especially within high-risk environments”, she argued.

Despite the progress on gender diversity, equal representation is still a way off. According to the 30% Club, only 13 FTSE350 companies have female chief executives – a share of less than 4 per cent. The group is also still campaigning to achieve a minimum of 30 per cent of women at senior management level of FTSE100 firms by 2020.

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