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Only nine FTSE 100 companies headed by women, study finds

by uma
Editorial & Advertiser disclosure

Robert Half FTSE 100 CEO Tracker reveals ongoing lack of diversity at the top

  •       Despite numerous gender inclusivity initiatives to increase diversity at the top, only nine female CEOs run FTSE 100 companies
  •       Two thirds (68%) of CEOs appointed though internal promotion, up from 46% in 2019
  •       More than two fifths of CEOs (42%) have a background in finance and banking, despite only 19 of the top 100 companies belonging to the financial sector


Despite a drive for diversity at the top and numerous initiatives to support the progression of women in the workplace, new analysis reveals that only nine CEOs running FTSE 100 companies are women.

This is according to new analysis of the FTSE 100 from specialist talent solutions consultancy Robert Half, which considers gender, career and educational background, age and nationality of the world’s most successful companies.

Of the nine female CEOs in the FTSE 100, four hail from the financial sector, covering insurance, banking and asset management. These include 44-year-old Italian born Milena Mondini-de-Focatiis of the Admiral Group, the youngest female CEO on the list, as well as Amanda Blanc of Aviva, Alison Rose-Slade of NatWest Group and Anne Farlow of Pershing Square Holdings.

“Despite significant progress by companies to improve female representation over the last few years, there are quite simply not enough female bosses filling the top spot in the UK’s most successful companies”, says Leyla Tindall, Managing Director for Robert Half Executive Search.

“There are a myriad of reasons for this, but the most significant is the shortage of females in leadership positions – so shortlists for C-suite roles are often not as diverse as they could be. While the introduction of shared parental leave and better support for women returners is encouraging, the time spent away from the workplace to care for a family still sets women back, while their male counterparts continue to progress.”

The route to the top

The research reveals that 68% got the top spot via internal promotion, up from 46% in 2019, suggesting that businesses are enhancing their succession planning strategies. As most CEOs move from a senior role in the same company, they are able to bring a deep understanding of the business to their new role, but other companies may opt to headhunt someone who can bring a fresh outlook to the organisation.

Once in a senior role, executives may have a clear route to the top but educational background could affect the likelihood of reaching the top echelons of the business world. Close to half (47%) have achieved some form of post-graduate qualification, with 23% holding an MBA, showing that higher education still plays a role in senior career progression.

In previous years, as many as one in five (18%) of CEOs had attended Oxford or Cambridge, but their dominance in the boardroom is fading with only four from the current list of FTSE 100 CEOs having been educated at these faculties.

Finance and accountancy professionals most likely to take the top spot

More than two fifths of CEOs (42%) have a background in finance and banking, despite only 19 of the top 100 companies belonging to the financial sector. Of these, 16 CEOs are Chartered Accountants or Chartered Management Accountants, making this by far the most common profession at the top.

Speaking about the prevalence of finance professionals in the FTSE 100, Leyla Tindall commented, During a financial downturn, it becomes common to promote more Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) to the top job, which might explain the high proportion of CEOs with a background in finance.”

She added, “We are seeing more appetite for CFOs to take over running companies as the strategic mind-set and strong financial acumen they bring are widely recognised as being vital for navigating companies through a financial downturn. However, as the economy improves, companies will look to employ visionaries to focus on growth and recovery.”


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