Majority of FTSE 100 Firms Lag in Diversity, New Report Reveals

Monday, June 24, 2024

A recent report has exposed a worrying trend: the majority of FTSE 100 companies are significantly behind in achieving diversity in key leadership positions. According to the "Hidden Truth: Diversity & Inclusion in the FTSE All-Share" report by WB Directors and global consulting firm Protiviti, a mere 13 percent of top leadership roles are held by women, and less than one percent by women of colour.

The analysis reveals a severe lack of diversity, with only 0.7 percent of top roles occupied by women of colour—25 women out of 3,452 positions. The situation is even more dire in AIM-listed firms, where just 0.3 percent of top roles are held by women of colour (seven women across more than 2,000 roles). In the FTSE 100, women of colour hold only 1.5 percent of senior roles.

WB Directors is calling for enhanced scrutiny and monitoring of boardroom diversity, particularly focusing on the top four leadership positions. Currently, the FTSE 100 has 24 percent of women in these roles, nearing the target of one in four. The FTSE 250 and FTSE SmallCap show slightly lower percentages at 19.6 percent and 21.7 percent, respectively. However, the roles of chair and CEO have the lowest female representation, at 7.9 percent and 6.8 percent, respectively, across the FTSE All-Share and AIM listings.

"Every company should be diverse"

Fiona Hathorn, CEO of WB Directors, stresses the need for broader efforts: "Targets and scrutiny have led to hard-fought gains at the FTSE 350 level. However, it’s time to extend focus to smaller listed companies and ensure that efforts to monitor board diversity are intersectional across gender and ethnicity.

"There is a persistent underrepresentation of women, particularly women of colour, in positions of power. Companies across the FTSE SmallCap and AIM must act urgently to create greater diversity at all levels. Measure it, report it, make it public – or the laggards will continue to opt out."

The report also found that AIM companies are significantly behind in gender diversity, with only 6.6 percent of top board roles held by women and over a third having all-male boards. This marks a significant increase from 2023, where the percentage of all-male boards rose from 18 percent to 35 percent.

Despite female board directors across FTSE All-Share firms making up just over 40 percent, 35 percent of these firms have not reached the target of having a board comprised of 40 percent women. Furthermore, 88 percent of AIM companies are failing to meet the 2025 target for 40 percent women in leadership roles.

Obstacles to Progress

The report also identified several barriers to progress by surveying 200 senior HR and equity, diversity, and inclusion professionals. It found a gap between company intentions and actions on diversity initiatives. While 54 percent of respondents noted increased expectations from the board and senior leadership, and 70 percent from employees, only 21 percent reported increased budgets to support these efforts, and just 35 percent noted an increase in resources.

Although incremental progress is being made towards ED&I goals, the report underscores the need for more work to ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion are embedded in organisational culture and leadership.

"Why Diversity is Needed"

Janet Barberis, managing director at Protiviti, comments on the findings: "Despite significant advances at the leadership level, the glass ceiling still exists. The research and advocacy by WB Directors are crucial. Diverse leadership is proven to deliver stronger operational results and brings a broader range of thinking critical in today's competitive landscape. It also enhances the ability to attract and retain top talent, essential for sustainable business."

Busola Sodeinde, NED, audit chair, and former CFO, adds, "It's surprising to see less than one percent of women of colour in key board roles. There is no shortage of capable women ambitious for themselves and their companies across all sectors. Those in power must take these findings seriously and use this moment to create necessary change."

To see full report 

Kim Cockayne