FTSE-250 bosses set challenge to boost ranks of female executives

7 November 2017, 12:56

The boards of 250 of Britain's largest companies will this week be challenged to promote more women to senior leadership roles amid a cacophony of criticism about gender diversity and sexual discrimination in the public and private sectors.

Sky News has learnt that a review to be published on Thursday will extend a target previously applied on a voluntary basis to FTSE-100 companies to the entire FTSE-350 index.

That will mean all of Britain's largest public companies being asked to ensure that one-third of the roles on their executive committees and of direct reports to those committees are held by women by the end of the decade.

The extended target will be outlined by Sir Philip Hampton, who took the helm of the project alongside Dame Helen Alexander last year.

Dame Helen died in August, aged 60.

Sources close to the review said it would highlight some progress towards another target - having 33% of FTSE-350 board positions filled by women by 2020.

It will show that 28% of those directorships are held by women today, against just 12% when Lord Davies, the former Trade Minister, began work to improve boardroom diversity in 2012.

However, progress towards the executive pipeline target over the last 12 months is understood to have been modest, reflecting what many executives believe is a structural problem in promoting women to more senior roles that could take a generation to fix.

The latest update of the Hampton-Alexander review will come during a period of unprecedented scrutiny of gender equiality in both the private sector and politics following widespread revelations of sexual harassment in Westminster and Hollywood.

Theresa May recently called for smaller companies to publish details of their gender pay gap, and to improve opportunities for women to progress through corporate ranks.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy declined to comment.