A new report finds that women are represented in only one-fifth of leadership roles in the UK. This number is the same as seen in other countries including the US and Singapore, indicating this lack of representation as a global issue.

A new report by BoardEx, a global data company and Odgers Berndtson, a global headhunting service, reveals the significant lack of representation when it comes to leadership roles.

In the UK, figures show women account for only around one-fifth (21 per cent) of roles on leadership teams. This is only marginally lower than the countries which see the highest number of women in leadership – Australia and Norway (27 per cent respectively) which is still less than one-third.

Furthermore, the data shows that around 42 per cent of leadership roles in the FTSE 100 are general management roles. However, when analysing the figures, nine in 10 (90 per cent) of these roles are taken up by men – meaning only the remaining 10 per cent are held by women.

In addition, finance roles made up the next highest sector amongst leadership roles in the UK (standing at 12 per cent). However, of these jobs, again eight in 10 (81 per cent) were taken up by men whilst less than a fifth (19 per cent) were held by women.

Overall, these two main categories comprise over half of all leadership roles (54 per cent) in the FTSE 100 and just over one in 10 of these roles (12 per cent) are held by women.

The report ultimately suggests that this data shows not enough women are being promoted to the types of roles which frequently lead to leadership positions.

Barry Gamble, Chairman of the NED City Debates and author of the foreword in the report, said:

Although country–level experience varies, it is surprising that the absolute leadership team figures, even of the best performing country indices, are significantly under–shooting where they need to be. It is also striking that these diversity measures fall below those in the boardroom.

Since the leadership teams of this study provide the talent pool for tomorrow’s boards the findings here point to a need to redouble diversity efforts to avoid a reversal of the progress made in recent years.

Kester Scrope, CEO at Odgers Berndtson, said:

Building a pipeline of leadership talent that is gender diverse is both a moral obligation and good business sense. This is where executive search plays a critical role in addressing gender inequality. The best headhunters can identify diverse candidate pools to ensure clients have access to as broad a slate of people as possible.

This is particularly important for the roles that most often lead to a seat at the top table and is essential for building high-performing leadership teams and cultures that have the skillset mix to stay ahead of competitors.

*This research was taken from the report ‘Global Leadership Team Gender Diversity Report’ which surveyed 14,850 individual leadership roles across 26 countries.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.