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2021 UK Spencer Stuart Board Index

2021 Snapshot

 11 %

of board members identified as minority ethnic directors

 61 %

of boards have at least one minority ethnic director

 51 %

of non-execs are women


boards comprise 50% or more women

Ethnic diversity

Parker Review targets

The Parker Review of 2017 called for quoted companies in the UK to commit to “One by 21”, initiating a target of at least one director from a minority ethnic background at all FTSE 100 boards by December 2021. FTSE 250 boards were asked to achieve the same target by 2024.

The Review also recommended that companies should include in all subsequent annual reports a summary of measures under way to increase ethnic diversity at both board and organisation-wide level. Those companies failing to comply by the relevant cut-off dates would be expected to include an explanation in their annual report.

At our cut-off date of 30 April, 61 of FTSE 100 companies reported having met the target, whereas 18 reported not meeting the target. Nineteen companies did not report their situation or allude to the Parker Review. Since our cut-off date more minority ethnic directors have been appointed.

Forty-three per cent of FTSE 100 companies reported the number or percentage of minority ethnic directors on the board; 29% merely report that they are either “compliant” or “non-compliant”. Nine per cent of companies chose a granular approach and reported how each director self-identifies.

Lloyds Banking Group goes beyond what is proposed by the Parker Review and the Hampton-Alexander Review and reports more comprehensive DE&I data. The company discloses the gender and ethnicity of board members and senior managers, as well as disability, gender identity and sexual orientation across all colleagues as part of the company’s Race Action Plan.

For details of our research methodology, read Our survey approach.

The state of ethnic diversity

Directors are described as ‘minority ethnic’ in relation to the dominant ethnicity of the country in which the company has its headquarters.

Sixty-one per cent (91) of companies in our sample have at least one minority ethnic director sitting on the board, and 39% (59) have no minority ethnic representation.

Number of ethnic minority directors on boards

Eleven per cent (145) of all board directors have identified as minority ethnic; of this group, 38% (55) are also UK nationals. Non-UK minority ethnic directors are mostly from US (38%), followed by India (9%).

Compared to all board members, minority ethnic directors are on average younger (58.4 years versus 60.9), have a lower average tenure on the board (3.8 versus 4.3), and have more concurrent board mandates (2.1 versus 1.6).

There are six (4%) minority ethnic chief executive officers with a seat on the board, and seven (5%) chief financial officers. Among those, minority ethnic CEOs are three years older (58.8) on average than their white peers (55.3). Minority ethnic CFOs have an average age of 49.0 years, compared to 52.3 among their white counterparts.

Minority ethnic CEOs have, on average, lengthier tenures on the board at 7.1 years (compared to 5.8 years among white CEOs), however minority ethnic CFOs have a shorter average tenure at 2.4 years (compared to 4.2).

Experience in the financial services sector is the most commonly seen background among all directors (31%) and minority ethnic directors (32%). Most minority ethnic board members with a financial services background have executive experience in banking (47%) and investment (22%). Other sector experiences of minority ethnic directors include: 21% in technology, media and telecommunications, and a tie between consumer and industrial sector backgrounds in third place at 14%.

In terms of most common functional experience, 36% of minority ethnic directors have held either a CEO or CFO position and 14% have held a non-corporate role in government or academia.

Most minority ethnic directors do not hold leadership positions on the board. Only one board chair among our survey constituents identifies as being minority ethnic, Shriti Vadera at Prudential, and six senior independent directors.

In committees, minority ethnic directors represent 2% (3) of audit committee chairs and also 2% (3) of remuneration committee chairs. Nomination committees are mostly led by the board chair, with the exception of 19 boards. Out of those 19, two nomination committee chairs are from a minority ethnic background.

The intersectionality of gender and ethnic diversity

In our sample, there is gender balance between female and male minority ethnic board members (74 and 71 respectively). Female ethnic minority directors are, on average, slightly younger than men (57.2 vs 59.6 years) and have been sitting on the board for half of the average tenure of their male counterparts (2.7 vs 5.1 years). Among the new appointments, there are 25% (20) more women than men (16), but similar numbers of first-timers, six women and seven men.

Age of board members
All board members Female board members Minority ethnic women Minority ethnic men
% of board members 100% 36% 5.0% 4.8%
Average age 60.9 58.3 57.2 59.6
Average tenure on board 4.3 3.5 2.7 5.1
Average # of public board roles 1.6 1.8 2.0 2.3
% of new directors (from total) 18% 52% 11% 9%
% of first-time directors (from total) 32% 43% 9% 16%

The background of female minority ethnic non-executive directors is similar to their male counterparts, with the financial sector accounting for the largest share at 31% and 28% respectively, followed by technology, media and telecommunications (17% and 21%). In terms of functional experience, 28% of female and 44% of male minority ethnic directors have CEO or CFO experience.

Functional background of minority ethnic directors by gender

Gender diversity

Hampton Alexander Review targets

One hundred (67%) from our sample of the largest 150 companies reached the Hampton-Alexander target of 33% women on the board by our cut-off date; 68 of them are constituents of the FTSE 100 and 32 of the FTSE 250. The change represents an increase of just five percentage points since last year.

Out of the 50 companies in our sample that did not meet the target on our cut-off date, only Ocado Group had fewer than 20% women on its board. However, it has since appointed Nadia Shouraboura (September 2021), increasing representation to 23%.

Fifteen boards (10%) have achieved gender parity, five more than in 2020. Severn Trent (56%), International Public Partnerships (57%), M&G (57%), Diageo (60%), and Games Workshop Group (67%) have all shifted the balance and now have more women than men on their boards.

Women on boards

UK boards recorded an average of 3.6 female members (the average board size is 9.9). Women occupied 36% (541) of board roles in the top 150 companies in 2021, maintaining the steady progression observed since 2012.

Gender makeup of UK boards

For the first time since we started tracking, the number of non-executive positions occupied by women (442) exceeded those occupied by men (422); women now to represent 51% of all non-executive directors. In contrast, there are just 14 female chairs, accounting for 9% of all chair roles, an increase from eight in the previous year.`

Only 14% of executives on boards are women (45 of 332), with no increase over the past year. Among them, most are CFOs (22), 12 are CEOs, six are regional or divisional director, and five are other C-suite executives.

Last year, only at Severn Trent did women occupy both management and board leadership roles (CEO and chair); in 2021 Severn Trent is joined by three other companies: Admiral Group, Direct Line Insurance Group, and Pennon Group.

Female non-executives

Out of the 14 women who lead boards in the top 150 companies in the FTSE (9% of all chair roles), seven have joined the board directly as chair, three were NEDs already, and three were SIDs before stepping into the chair role. Fiona Clutterbuck at M&G is an interim chair.

Female chairs are, on average, younger (60 years old) than men (66); however, their average tenure in the role is shorter, at 1.6 years compared to 4.4 years among men. The longest tenure of a woman leading a board recorded among our survey sample is 5.6 years (Anita Frew at Croda International). Female chairs have on average 1.5 external commitments on other public boards; their male counterparts have 1.4.

There are more female senior independent directors than chairs, totalling 38 (26%) in our sample. This marks a decrease from last year’s 34% but is still above 2019 (23%). Women occupying SID roles are, on average, the same age as their male counterparts at 62.9 years and have been in the role one year fewer (0.9) than men.

This year marks the first-time that we have been able to report gender parity on non-executive director roles, with women representing 51% of all NEDs in our sample (excluding chair) in 2021; an increase of 183 in the past decade (18% in 2011). Female NEDs are slightly younger than men, with an average age of 58.6 years compared to 61.1 among their male counterparts. They have been on the board for an average of 3.4 years, one year fewer than men (4.3).

As the chart indicates, regardless of role or gender, the most common background for board directors is financial services. Among men the second most common background is the industrial sector, whereas for women this varies by role. (The FTSE 150 is made up of 39% industrial companies and 23% financial services companies.)

Chair background
SID background
Non-executive director background

Turning to the main functional backgrounds of chairs, 56% of male chairs and 23% of female chairs have experience as either a CEO or a CFO. The majority of female chairs (57%) held other senior-level executive positions. The rest had either been partners in professional services firms, in government roles, consultancy and advisory or marketing.

Among female non-executive directors (excluding chairs), 13% are or have been a CEO or CFO and 59% have a senior executive background; 44% of male non-executives are or have been a CEO or a CFO and 41% have a senior executive background.

Women lead 57% (85) of boards’ remuneration committees and 29% (43) of audit committees. Out of the 26 stand-alone risk committees in our survey, women chair 42% (11). See more detail on the profile of committee members in the Committees section.

Female executives

At our cut-off date of 30 April 2021, there were 12 female chief executive officers at the top 150 companies of the FTSE, only five more than a decade ago. Three women were newly appointed CEO in the year under review: Jette Nygaard-Andersen at Entain, Milena Mondini de Focatiis at Admiral Group, and Amanda Blanc at Aviva. Jette Nygaard-Andersen had been an NED at Entain since 2019, becoming CEO in January 2021 after the previous executive departed. Amanda Blanc was also an NED prior to her appointment as CEO of Aviva in 2020, marking her first role as chief executive of a quoted company. Milena Mondini de Focatiis joined Admiral in 2007 as a business development manager and held various roles prior to her appointment as CEO in December 2020.

There are more female chief financial officers than chief executive officers; women represent 17% (22) of all CFOs. At Future, both the CEO and CFO roles are held by women.

Female CEOs are on average younger than their male counterparts, (52.5 vs 55.5 years old). The average age of female CFOs is 51.7, slightly younger than the 52.3 average among men.

Women in board leadership positions

The recent FCA consultation paper, Diversity and inclusion on company boards and executive committees (CP21/24), proposes a number of new Listing Rule requirements that “at least one of the senior board positions (Chair, CEO, SID or CFO) is held by a woman (including individuals self-identifying as a woman)”. At our cut-off date, 64 out of the top 150 FTSE companies have men in all four senior board positions.

Gender diversity on FTSE 100 executive committees

24 %

of ExCo members are women: by contrast 50% of non-executives are women

62 %

of ExCos have two or more female members, compared with 52% in 2020

9.3 %

of ExCos are all-male (9.1%. in 2019)

The executive committee (ExCo) constitutes a pipeline of talent for non-executive director roles on the boards of quoted companies. In this section we examine the composition of ExCos among just the FTSE 100 companies. The Hampton-Alexander Review currently sets a target of 33% of women in executive leadership roles. However, progress in expanding gender representation in ExCos has lagged well behind boards; the picture will look even worse if the target rises to 40%.

Roles of women on executive committees in the FTSE 100

Currently, 24% of FTSE 100 ExCo members are women, and only one-quarter of ExCos (25%) have at least 33% gender representation in the executive committee. Eight companies did not disclose the composition of their executive committee.

Foreign directors

We define foreign directors as having a nationality that differs from that of the company. Foreign directors thus account for 34% (507) of all board members, a figure that has been relatively steady for the past decade (between 34% and 30%).

The average number of different nationalities on a board is four. Eighty-one per cent of boards have at least one foreign member, and 29 boards are composed of UK nationals only.

Thirty-one boards (21%) have chairs whose nationality is different to that of the company, and 44 (31%) companies have foreign CEOs. Glencore (Swiss) and Entain’s (Israeli) boards are composed solely of foreigners, according to our definition above.

UK nationals represent 72% of all board members (65% excluding those with two or more nationalities). US citizens represent the second largest nationality at 8%.

Origin of board directors

Boardroom diversity — top 5 companies in the FTSE 150

Most women
  1. Games Workshop Group (67%, 4)
  2. Diageo (60%, 6)
  3. International Public Partnerships (57%, 4) and M&G (57%, 4)
  4. Severn Trent (56%, 5)
  5. Rightmove (50%, 4)
Most non-nationals
  1. Entain (100%, 11)
  2. Glencore (100%, 8)
  3. Ferrexpo (86%, 6)
  4. Coca-Cola HBC (85%, 11)
  5. Anglo American (82%, 9)
Most minority ethnic directors
  1. Rightmove (37%, 3)
  2. Unilever (36%, 4)
  3. Diageo (30%, 3) and British American Tobacco (30%, 3)
  4. Spirax-Sarco Engineering (27%, 3), HSBC Holdings (27%, 3)
  5. GlaxoSmithKline (25%, 3), Reckitt Benckiser Group (25%, 3)
Most directors under 50
  1. Ferrexpo (43%, 3)
  2. Unite Group (40%, 4)
  3. Just Eat (37%, 3), Rightmove (37%, 3), Dr. Martens (37%, 3) and Auto Trader Group (37%, 3)
  4. Games Workshop Group (33%, 2), Softcat (33%, 2)
  5. Future (33%, 3)