This article will consider the progress of women in leadership roles recorded by the Hampton-Alexander Review. 

Reflecting on the impact of the Hampton-Alexander Review almost 5 years on, Chief Executive, Denise Wilson discusses the promising changes made by some of the UK’s top businesses. Nevertheless, as the final report shows, big changes are yet to be made with regard to increasing female representation.   

The Hampton-Alexander Review was first introduced in 2016 as a business-led framework for improving gender diversity [1]. The independent, voluntary, and business-led initiative supported by Government, recommends improvements for the top FTSE 350 companies with regards to their representation of women, both across their boards and in executive leadership positions.  

With a view to widening representation, an expectation was implemented that would see the FTSE 350 boards as being composed of at least 33% women by 2020 and to see considerable advancements in the under-represented executive pipeline.  

What progress has been made?  

Now in its fifth and final year, the Hampton-Alexander Review has recorded significant steps in the right direction since its initial call to arms. In certain areas, the targets have been exceeded, with female board members surpassing 30% across the FTSE 350 as of February 2020 and promising progress being made within the FTSE 250 and FTSE 100 also [2].  

In terms of executive roles, female appointment has increased substantially within the FTSE350 between 2011 and 2020 from 9.5% to 29% [2].  

When speaking with Denise, she showed pride in the progress made and discussed how educating businesses has been just as progressive as improving the figures.  

Denise Wilson talks about progress and the importance of acknowledging the successes of the review. [3] 

FTSE 100 

The FTSE 100 has made steady progress again this year, with the number of women in the Combined Executive Committee & Direct Reports increasing to 30.6%, up from 28.6% last year.  

Similarly, the representation of women on the boards of FTSE 100 companies has reached 36.2%, exceeding the target set for 2020. 

Despite recording the biggest increase in leadership in four years the review argues that ‘the rate of progress overall remains slow’ [4]. Equally, the number of women in CEO roles has stayed low.  

However, the key drivers of progress are the turnover rate and appointment of women. Higher numbers of women in leadership roles will help fuel this progression faster. 

Infographic displaying rate of progress within the FTSE 100, Hampton-Alexander Review, 2020. [4]

FTSE 250 

The report states that ‘the representation of women in FTSE 250 leadership roles this year has remained largely flat’ [4]. 

Though the number of women on the Executive Committee has increased, twice as many men continue to be appointed with 66% of all available roles still going to men. 

The representation of women on FTSE 250 boards showed more positive results, with an increase of over 8% in the last two years, meeting the 33% target in December 2020.  

However, the number of companies in the FTSE 250 that have reached, or exceeded the overall 33% target has fallen back from 52 in 2019, to 48 this year.  

While 49 companies have not met the target, they have made good progress. However, this still leaves just under half of all companies making little, or no progress, several of which have some way to go.

Infographic showing list of companies with all-male executive committees, Hampton-Alexander Review, 2020 [4]. 

Key takeaways from the final report  

While the 33% target has been key to driving progress in women’s representation, we know progress comes in many forms. The cultural shift in workplace attitudes towards women is key. To continue good practice Sir Philip Hampton gives these recommendations in his final letter to the review [4]: 

  1. Companies should as a matter of best practice have a woman in at least one of the 4 roles of Chair, CEO, SID, and CFO, and investors should support such best practice   
  2. Recognising the practical synergies on data gathering as well as the common policy rationale, BEIS and GEO should coordinate as much as possible the initiatives the Government backs on diversity in business, most notably in respect of gender and ethnicity   
  3. Companies should publish gender pay gap reports for their board and their executive committee. This would not be onerous but would shine a light on the pronounced structural subordination of women in most boards and executive committees   
  4. In order to maintain the progress championed by the Hampton-Alexander Review, BEIS and GEO should review with the Investment Association and other investor groups annually any voting sanctions (e.g. ‘Red Top’ advice to shareholders) applied to listed companies that fail to meet the gender targets they have set. Public policy may be adjusted in the event of persistent concerns over diversity at senior levels in businesses 

What’s next for female representation in the workplace?  

While most businesses in the FTSE 350 have made genuine efforts towards change, there are still a few who are yet to implement substantial changes. Despite the progress since the inception of the review, some of the toughest challenges remain: 

  1. Too many leaders lacking skills & ill-informed on diversity   
  2. Workplace behaviours, myths and gender-stereotyping   
  3. Building trust and developing more up-standers and allies   
  4. More equal parental leave policies & affordable childcare   
  5. The Gender Say Gap, the predominance of male voices   
  6. Bias in the selection, too few women in top CEO, FD and Chair roles   
  7. 65–70% Board & Leadership roles occupied by men   
  8. Appointment rate heavily skewed towards men  

Finally, the data in certain areas remains incomplete. There is a lack of information on the social background and ethnicity of board members, only providing a partial picture. There is still much more work to do to improve the representation of women, in particular the representation of women from diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. 

Denise pointed to actions that need to be taken to promote inclusive cultures and allyship within the workplace.  

“While it is important to get numbers up and get beyond that tokenistic space, beyond that representation is creating a culture in which people want to stay and in which they can thrive. 

Employees, clients, suppliers- they need to find their voice. People need to be encouraged to stand up when they see under-representation or unfair behaviours. To do that, they need to learn the right language and have the moral courage to use it. I do think we have a very supportive workforce, but at the moment they are ill-equipped to deal with conversations about race or gender.” [4] 

It will take further action from business and Government together to deliver. 


[1] 2016. Hampton-Alexander Review 2016. [online] [Accessed 23/04/2020].   

[2] 2019. [online] [Accessed 23/04/2020].   

[3] Williams, D. 2020. MGC Interview 06/10/21

[4] 20220. Hampton-Alexander Review 2020. [online] [Accessed 23/04/2020].   

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The Hampton-Alexander Review is a business-led framework for improving gender diversity at work. This article will consider the progress of women in leadership roles recorded by the Hampton-Alexander Review.

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