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UK corporate equality drive runs out of steam

Recent progress toward equalizing representation of men and women on the boards of Britain’s biggest companies has run out of steam, with FTSE 350 failing to increase the share of women employed in senior roles over the past year.

Research undertaken by The Pipeline showed that gender diversity was stagnant across this group, with women making up just 16% of executive committees on average as of April – the same proportion recorded a year prior.

Where female figures carrying high-level responsibilities for managing company budgets were looked at, the situation was similarly stagnant, with zero growth reported on the 6% representation found in 2016.

Lorna Fitzsimons, The Pipeline’s co-founder, commented: “With agendas dominated by Brexit, the focus on gender diversity at senior levels has been slipping. In this climate of low growth, companies cannot miss out on this profit margin advantage.”

The disappointing statistics will come as a blow to the UK government which has made addressing the discrepancy a priority following The Davies Commission, an independent review launched in 2010 that called for more diversity within FTSE 100 boardrooms.

The government’s latest target was to see executive committees composed of a minimum of 33% female senior executives by 2020 but in some respects this goal is now further away with the number of companies with no women on their boards rising by 8 to 60 over the course of 2017. Similarly, the number of companies with no female executives bearing financial responsibilities also jumped by 16 to 147.

The corporate experience contrasts with that of advertising where the push for gender equality has made real gains.

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