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Hampton-Alexander Review - women on FTSE boards

Hampton-Alexander Review - women on FTSE boards

Mark.Freed / 15 Nov 2017

I was honoured to be invited to the launch of the second Hampton-Alexander Review earlier this month, an inspiring and encouraging event. 

The Hampton-Alexander Review is an independent review body which builds on the excellent work of the Davies Review to increase the number of women on FTSE boards and with an important new focus to improve women’s representation in other senior leadership positions.

Sir Philip Hampton’s opening remarks at the launch mirrored his statement in the actual report:

“There should be an expectation in business that the selection process is based entirely on merit. The 'best' person gets the job.  Given the disproportionate number of men to women in senior roles, business should question the soundness of their meritocracies. I am pleased so many business leaders are asking this question and taking action to improve.”

Thank you, Sir Philip, I have been searching for the rebuke to the ‘best person for the job’ line.  I hear that line more than any other in my conversations with hiring managers and recruiters.  

Good news 

A lot of the data in the report shows good news and that real progress is being made at the most senior levels of our 350 largest quoted companies.  

Women on boards: 

  • the FTSE 100 stands at 27.7% up from 26.6% and at its highest ever; 
  • the FTSE 250 has also moved ahead at 22.8% up from 21.1% in 2016; 
  • the FTSE 350 overall stands at 24.5% women’s representation, up from 23% this time last year and very close to the 25% target set by the Davies Review in 2013. 

I, of course, look at the report from the perspective of a gender champion within the financial services’ sector and started analysing the results of the sector, with a little trepidation I have to admit.  My worries were unfounded. 

There are 42* financial services’ firms in the FTSE 350. Two thirds of these firms are ranked by percentage of women on boards in the top half of the overall rankings.  We are actually doing quite well in financial services!  

The number of women on boards is often a deceptive figure that has often come in for criticism, wrongly or rightly, as the figures can be inflated by the appointment of female non-executives.  It is therefore a welcome addition to this year’s report that the percentage of women on executive committees and direct reports to the board is also being made visible.  

To see a clear picture of how firms are really doing, who is really committed to diversity and inclusion and collecting the gender dividend as a result you need to look at how each firm ranks in the two respective measures (women on board vs women on executive committees & direct reports).  The chart below highlights those firms that are doing really well in both measures and those that perhaps need a nudge.

Well done to our friends at Legal and General, Virgin Money and Aldermore Group. You along with Old Mutual and Admiral are clearly leading the field with the highest percentage of women on both your board, exec committee and direct reports. 

To  our friends and clients at Barclays and HSBC we look forward to helping you into the leaders quartile in the next year. We are happy to support you in your commitment to diversity and addressing your challenges. 

*Excluding investment trusts and a couple of firms registered on the exchange whose operations are outside of the UK.

Mark Freed is CEO of E2W, the company that he set up with Tina twenty years ago to address the issue of gender diversity in financial service.  He is passionate about gender parity and encourages more men to join the campaign.  

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