An independent review, commissioned by the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), urged FTSE 350 companies to fill more board and senior leadership positions with women, extending the 33% target to senior leadership positions for all FTSE 350 companies.
This voluntary target was previously only applied to FTSE 100 firms, and FTSE 350 companies will need to appoint women to at least 40% of senior positions over the next three years if it is to be reached.
The Hampton-Alexander Review 2017, chaired by Sir Philip Hampton, found that women now occupy almost 28% of board positions in FTSE 100 companies, up from 12.5% six years ago.
Moreover, the number of all-male FTSE 350 company boards has fallen to 10 from 152 since 2011 and the biggest UK companies were on track to meet the target by 2020.
Sir Philip welcomed the progress but noted that,it was not happening as quickly outside of the FTSE 100.
“We must now renew commitment to this important issue for UK business to fully harness the under-utilised potential of the many talented women in the workplace,” he said.
Business minister Margot James said, “Businesses have made great strides in recent years to increase senior female representation and now is a time for the business community to step up to the challenge to make the UK a world leader on this important issue.
“We have seen time and time again that our most successful companies are those that champion greater diversity and inclusion, and our largest companies are stepping up their efforts on this issue in order to reap both the societal and economic benefits,” she added.
The government set up a business diversity and inclusion group earlier this year, which aimed to remove barriers in the workplace by bringing together business leaders and organisations.
Companies with more than 250 staff are also now required to report their gender pay gaps and bonuses.
Justine Greening, education secretary and minister for women and equalities, said, “Tackling inequality in the boardroom and ensuring more women get into senior leadership positions is not just good business sense, it is vital to our economy.”
The Institute of Directors welcomed the report’s recommendation, arguing there “always were plenty of talented women out there just waiting to be given the chance to show they belonged in the board room”.
The UK is one of the first countries in the world to require all large employers to publish their gender pay and bonus data.