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Female CEOs double board gender diversity

Just 20% of UK board positions are held by women, along with 3% of chair roles

Gender diversity on global boards is nearly doubled in organisations that have female leadership, according to research from Deloitte.

The Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective report found that 29% of board positions are held by women in companies with a female CEO. This compares to 15% in companies with a male CEO.

In the UK it was found that 20% of board positions were held by women, along with 3% of chair roles. Just 4.8% of the 479 companies analysed had a female CEO, and in the FTSE 250 there were 13 boards with no women on them whatsoever.

Only 15% of board seats worldwide were found to be held by women, a modest increase from the 12% reported in the 2015 edition of the report.

Norway had the largest share of female board members at 42%, followed by France (33%), and Sweden (32%). The UK ranked 12th. New Zealand has achieved the strongest growth since 2015, with the number of board seats held by women increasing to 28% from 18%, and the number of female chairs increasing to 11% from 5%.

But Nick Owen, chairman of Deloitte northwest Europe, said progress still needs to be made. “The increase in the number of women on UK boards and the fact that many companies have met or exceeded Lord Davies’ target is positive,” he said. “The focus is now on the representation of senior women below the board level.

"The Hampton-Alexander Review recommended that women should hold one-third of positions on, or reporting into, executive committees at FTSE 100 companies. Although achieving this will be difficult, more diverse management teams will have an impact on building an inclusive culture underpinned by respect. Focusing on culture will enable UK businesses to provide a working environment where people are able to succeed, and are judged solely on the value they bring.”

Owen stressed the importance of diversity in keeping up with new developments. “As organisations navigate technological and societal shifts that are transforming the future of work, boards will have a critical role to play,” he said. “Diversity of thought and people will be critical to ensure that board members are exploring challenges from every angle and consistently bringing a fresh point of view.”