Breakthrough! How three in every 10 directors of FTSE 100 firms are now women – hitting the target to smash the glass ceiling

“ It is fabulous to see that we have reached 30.6% of FTSE 100 Board roles occupied by women, with 54 companies having achieved at least 30%. This is fantastic progress. However, we are still at only 25% of FTSE 250 board roles, leading to 27% across the FTSE 350. We must keep the momentum going to encourage more companies to appoint female directors, and to focus on creating a pipeline of talented women to fill senior roles. It is important to note that gender inclusive cultures and equal career opportunities for women in the UK will only happen when key roles throughout all levels in organisations are accessed by women. This is why the UK Automotive 30% Club is taking action to close the gender gap on each rung of the career ladder.” – Julia Muir, Founder of The UK Automotive 30% Club


Three in ten of Britain’s top bosses are now women in a major breakthrough for equality campaigners.

A flurry of appointments this month has pushed the percentage of female directors in FTSE 100 boardrooms above the 30% mark for the first time.  It is a landmark moment for those who have pushed for years to increase the number of women in boardrooms.

The Global 30% Club was set up in 2010 to achieve this target.  The current global chair Brenda Trenowden who is the head of financial institutions for ANZ Bank has said “we’re delighted to finally hit that milestone – it’s overdue. Our first campaign to get to 30% on FTSE 100 boards was for 2015 so we should have got there sooner and now our campaign is very much about getting to 30% across the FTSE 350 and even more importantly to get 30% in senior leadership roles.  So while I certainly want to celebrate this, I don’t want us to be complacent because there’s so much more to do to make this sustainable.”

The 30% Club’s goal is now the boards of the top 350 listed companies to have 30% of women on them by the end of 2020.  They also want to increase the number of female executives at those companies to 30% – the important point being that this means women playing an active role in running a company, rather than just sitting on company boards as directors.  Brenda believes it was important for young female employees to start seeing more women in senior roles so that they see opportunities to climb the ladder.


Seven women were appointed as directors of FTSE 100 firms in September, helping to push the percentage of women on FTSE company boards above the 30% mark, according to data firm BoardEx.  They included former Royal Mail chief executive Dame Moya Greene, who joined mining giant Rio Tinto; Dame Ann Dowling, who joined engineer Smiths Group; and Fiona McBain, who became a non-executive director of insurance firm Direct Line. 

The 30% Club ultimately wants more female chief executives. Since Moya Greene left Royal Mail this month, there are now only six female bosses in the FTSE 100 – an index of Britain’s largest companies listed on the stock market. They are outnumbered by male chief executives called Dave or David.  The 30% Club wants more women to be installed in executive roles and then work their way up to become chief executives.


A report last month by the CIPD and High Pay Centre showed women are also relatively underpaid compared with male FTSE bosses, who earn on average 110% more than their female counterparts.  Of the top 25 best paid of the 100 bosses, only one is a woman: GlaxoSmithKline chief executive Emma Walmsley, who made £4.9 million last year. However, while the chief executive is almost always the best paid person at any firm, Walmsley cannot say that of herself. That prize goes to Hal Barron, its chief scientific officer.  Research by management consultants at McKinsey claimed that £150 billion could be added to the UK economy by 2025 by bridging the gender pay gap. Earlier this year, firms were legally required to reveal their gender pay gaps.

In November 2016, the Government commissioned the Hampton-Alexander review into how to improve female representation at Britain’s largest companies.  The review, which is focused on senior women below board level, is aimed at ensuring a third of FTSE leadership positions are held by women by 2020.  In May, the review, led by GlaxoSmithKline chairman Sir Philip Hampton, revealed a list of embarrassing excuses made by bosses of major companies for not having any female directors.  They included that women lack the ability to understand ‘extremely complex’ issues.  Another explanation was: ‘We have one woman already on the board, so we are done – it is someone else’s turn.’

This article was written by Jamie Nimmo, Financial Mail On Sunday