Media & Advocacy

‘The 2020 Target Risks Being Missed Without a Step Change in Board Recruitment’

Voice For Inclusion

'The 2020 Target Risks Being Missed Without a Step Change in Board Recruitment'

 Our response to the 2018 Hampton-Alexander Report

We welcome the third report of the Hampton-Alexander Review keeping the pressure on the FTSE 350 to increase the gender diversity on their boards towards 33% by the end of 2020.

It is terrific to see the level of progress made since Women on Boards UK was conceived when, back in 2011, less than 13% of board members were female. With the FTSE 100 boards now over 30% female and just 5 all male boards, we can see that persuasion from influential groups like the 30% Club and government target setting has had an impact. At Women on Boards we have also played our part in supporting the pipeline of board-ready female candidates and helping them put themselves forward.

However the latest Hampton-Alexander report makes the challenge clear – one in two appointments to FTSE 350 firms will need to be female over the next two years to achieve the target within timescale.

Fiona Hathorn, MD of Women on Boards UK said,

“I believe a step change in recruitment practices is needed to meet the goal.

Although most FTSE 350 companies are using headhunters, recruitment is still very much about who you know. We know from many highly capable women in our network that getting put forward for long lists is extremely hard and continues to be almost impossible if you are not known within the NED community.

Open advertising of board vacancies of all listed companies would break open the closed networks that prevent diverse candidates being considered. There are no excuses – Women on Boards non-executive vacancy board is free to advertise on for companies and headhunters alike.

We know there are no problems in finding women who are capable and keen. The response we get from targeted advertising to our network and the 1500+ women we have directly helped secure positions on all types of boards is testament to that.

Non-executive vacancy advertising is already common practice in the public sector. It is time for listed companies to be brave and open themselves up to the widest possible pool of talent.”

It is time to for our attention to shift to all listed companies (FTSE ALL Share) because outside the FTSE 350, we are still going nowhere fast.

California has this year passed legislation, being hailed as ‘landmark’, which moves having a women on company boards from a ‘should do’ to a ‘must do’. The new law requires all publicly traded companies with headquarters in California to have one woman on their board by the end of 2019, and two by the end of 2021. Read the full report in USA Today.

Fiona Hathorn said,

“The tortuous efforts that have had to be undertaken to get to where we are today are not easily replicable outside the FTSE 350, so quotas may yet be needed.

I don’t like quotas, but I like what they achieve. Persuasion is better than the quota route to achieving more diverse boards but it only works when someone with power is measuring and managing the persuasion. It is this central co-ordination that has been lacking in the United States so I am not surprised that the Californian legislators have voted for board quotas.

I would not be surprised if quotas do end up coming to the UK before 2025 because of the almost zero progress made outside the FTSE 350.”


Read the Hampton Alexander 2018 report press release here, including lists of the best performing companies.

Read the Hampton Alexander 2018 report in full.