By Emily Nicolle
Of Financial News
Only eight of the City's top 100 businesses are run by women, as firms fail to make strides toward greater diversity among the highest ranks.
The proportion of female executive directors across the FTSE 100 has flatlined at 14% for the second consecutive year, according to a report by Cranfield School of Management on Thursday.
Research conducted for the year to July 20 found the group of top listed companies had only eight female chief executives, including NatWest Group PLC's Alison Rose and Aviva PLC's Amanda Blanc, and 15 chief financial officers or finance directors.
While the proportion of female nonexecutive directors on FTSE 100 boards was at an all-time high at 44%, with 14% of chairs and 35% of those chairing board committees being women, there are still too few women in senior leadership positions such as chair, chief executive and chief financial officer, the report says.
Alison Kay, EY's managing partner for client service in the U.K. and Ireland said the latest research shows that progress in executive roles is "actually far more of an important metric than the number of women on boards as a whole."
"The lack of female representation in executive roles is particularly striking, especially when the presence of women in senior positions, critically the role of CEO and chairperson, was noted to be a strong and influential driver," said Ms. Kay.
Firms across financial services have been urged to do more to tackle diversity issues, as the Financial Conduct Authority and the Bank of England consider enshrining such aims within regulation.
Policymakers have proposed that executives should be required to tie their pay to meeting inclusion targets, making those at the top directly accountable for falling short.
"Tracking and measuring diversity against targets are now a bare minimum on this agenda for all companies, but steps to uncover the invisible barriers to career progression for women and drive inclusion are the real game changers," Ms. Kay said.
Industry-wide initiatives to combat the lack of gender diversity across the FTSE 350 have largely floundered during the pandemic.
More than half of the firms signed up to boost the number of women in top roles as part of the Women in Finance Charter last year failed to do so within that timeframe, including City stalwarts such as Credit Suisse AG, Deloitte LLP and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
In the FTSE 100, drinks firm Diageo PLC was the leading company when it came to diversity, with 60% of board positions filled by women. Online grocery challenger Ocado Group PLC's board was bottom of the list, at only 17%.
Cranfield's Female FTSE Board Report recommended that more company boards prioritize succession planning and talent management, using a meritocratic approach to create greater gender balance.
"Women on boards encourage the appointment of women into executive roles, and the other way around. Talent management and robust succession planning are vital if women and other diverse people are to be promoted into executive roles," said Sue Vinnicombe, professor of women and leadership at Cranfield, the report's lead author.
"There is clearly now a pipeline of experienced women non-executive directors, so why are so few of them promoted to leadership of the board? I am sure that all chairs and CEOs of FTSE companies understand the business case for gender diversity at an intellectual level, but do they really believe in it, and are they willing to invest serious effort into achieving it?"
(END) Dow Jones Newswires