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A strong year of progress but watch out for the ‘one woman and done’ approach, says government report

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This year has been the ‘strongest year of progress’ for female representation at board level since 2011, but more focus is now needed to address the remaining imbalance.

The government-backed, Hampton-Alexander Review analyses female representation at the most senior levels of organisations, against targets set back in 2011.

Overall, both FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies are on target for women to make up at least a third of board positions by the end of 2020. As a whole, the number of all-male boards in the FTSE 350 has fallen from 152 in 2011 to only two today.

During an interview, the Chief Executive of the review, Denise Wilson White, told the BBC’s Today programme that there is still a huge amount of work to be done to achieve gender equality in senior leadership positions, pointing out the ‘one and done’ approach at play, whereby firms appointed just one ‘token’ woman to the board.

The report contains a number of case studies of businesses who are adopting extra measures to increase their diversity at board and other senior levels. These include Diageo, whose executive committee is currently 40% women. In April 2019 the organisation announced that all its UK employees will be eligible for 52 weeks parental leave, half at full pay.

Lloyds Bank is featured as another case study, detailing its leadership programme which identifies women throughout the organisation who’ve the potential to reach Group Executive Committee. As a result of specialised training and a new policy which requires an explanation when no female candidates are put forward for senior roles, 35% of the women identified as having leadership potential are now already in executive roles.

Recognised as the best performer in the FTSE100 for the second year, Burberry, which has 61.3% women in its Combined Executive Committee and Direct Reports team, has committed to providing unconscious bias training for every one of its employees by the end of 2019.

You can read the full Hampton Alexander Review here.