UK pharma triples women on executive committee but troubles remain

By Ben Hargreaves

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/Nattakorn Maneerat)
(Image: Getty/Nattakorn Maneerat)

Related tags Women in leadership Uk Executive committee

Despite positive movement on the number of women serving on executive committees since 2018, the industry has seen a significant drop in positions governing profit and loss.

A recent report from The Pipeline analyzed the number of women in leadership positions across the UK’s FTSE 350 companies.

The report found that after the UK government set a target of 33% of leadership roles being held by women by 2020, 85% of companies have no women executives on their main boards. The report concluded that such results show there has been ‘little to no progress’ made in recent years.

Representation of women on executive committees: 26% (+188%)

Representation of women in P&L roles on executive committees: 4% (-50%)

Representation of women as executive directors on boards: 6% (-40%)

Specific to pharma, the report found that there had been a significant shift of balance in the leadership roles filled by women. The report noted that the industry has tripled their representation of women on their executive committee, up to 26% from 9% in 2018.

However, the same year saw women in positions governing profit and loss (P&L) had fallen by half, from 8% to 4%, and there was a drop in women with executive director positions from 10% to 6%.

In its analysis, the report notes that this implies women are taking ‘functional roles’ within executive committees, as opposed to P&L roles or executive director roles – the latter positions being roles that tend to lead to CEO or chair positions.

Currently, only 3.7% of FTSE 350 companies have a female CEO, which is a reduction from the 4.6% figure recorded two years prior. One in five companies have no female members on their executive committees.

As a result, the report concluded that it will be 2088 before executive committees achieve gender balance, at the current rate of progress.

To speed up this process, the report suggested four points of action:

1. Make it the CEOs responsibility: “If the boss really wants it, it will happen”

2. Establish hard targets: “Company leaders must be held accountable with specific numbers and firm deadlines for the appointment of more women to their executive committee”

3. Transparency is key: “Companies should public full details of executive committees with their annual reports, alongside their company’s gender balance targets”

4. Governance: “Government can have a big impact with such organisations, through regulation and the award of public sector contracts”

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