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School of Business and Management

New report: Targets bring more women on boards, but they still don’t reach the top

Dr Elena Doldor has contributed to a major new report published by Cranfield University which shows that there are only five female CEOs in the FTSE 100.

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Dr Elena Doldor, Reader in Organisational Behaviour in the School of Business and Management, and member of Queen Mary's Centre for Research in Equality and Diversity, co-authored the report. 

The report found that voluntary targets have boosted gender diversity on UK boards, but there are still too few women in senior leadership positions, such as CEO and Chair, to drive long-term change.

Key findings

  • New research finds lack of women in senior board roles and in senior executive roles – there are only five female CEOs in the FTSE 100 
  • Voluntary targets can improve gender balance and unroot bias, but greater accountability is needed by UK boards to accelerate progress on diversity 
  • Organisations need to address long-term effects of COVID-19 on women’s careers 

Voluntary targets have boosted gender diversity on UK boards, but the Female FTSE Board Report [PDF 1,152KB] co-authored by Dr Elena Doldor warns that there are still too few women in senior leadership positions, such as CEO and Chair, to drive long-term change. The report, produced in collaboration with Cranfield University and sponsored by EY, finds that although the FTSE 350 looks on track to reach the Hampton Alexander target of 33% of women on boards by December 2020, a lack of representation at the top could be impacting the number of women in the executive pipeline. 

Diversity targets are now established as normal business practice, with those set by the Davies and Hampton-Alexander Reviews driving internally-set targets in organisations. Examining how targets work in practice, the report finds that ambitiousness and accountability are key features of effective targets. 

Dr Elena Doldor said: “Targets don’t threaten meritocracy, they enable it. Our research indicates that when used ambitiously and systemically, targets can unroot bias across key talent management processes and contribute to genuine culture change. For targets to become more robust, it is critical that organisations put in place accountability mechanisms for their meeting their targets and address the long-term impact of the pandemic on women’s careers.”