FTSE 100 boardrooms are becoming more diverse

18 November 2020

Our latest study shows that FTSE 100 boards are starting to become much more diverse, taking on directors from a much wider range of backgrounds and experiences.

Our research found that 79% of board directors of FTSE 100 companies come from educational backgrounds outside of the global top 30 universities*, such as Oxford, Cambridge and MIT. The research also shows that only 10% of current FTSE 100 CEOs attended Oxford or Cambridge, down from 23% in 2010.

Universities outside the global Top 30 that were most frequently attended by FTSE 100 board members include the universities of Manchester (23 directors), Sheffield (11) and Bristol (11). Tameside College, Preston Polytechnic and Belfast Metropolitan College are also now represented in the FTSE100 boardroom, showing that the educational background of the leaders of the UK’s largest companies is wider than ever before.

While FTSE100 companies admit they have much further to go to improve diversity at board level, this study shows that substantial progress has been made in recent years. Businesses are now looking at a wider range of criteria when recruiting at board level, with less emphasis placed on simple metrics such as following traditional ‘blue chip’ educational and career paths.

The study also found that gender diversity has improved across FTSE 100 boards, which has been a priority for many FTSE 100 companies in recent years. One third of FTSE 100 directors are now women, up significantly from just 13% a decade ago.

Gender diversity is improving most quickly among the youngest board members, with women now representing 43% of board directors under the age of 50. If progress continues to be made at this rate, a gender balance of 50-50 on FTSE 100 boards should be achievable in the next few years.

The research also shows that only a minority of board directors now hold either an MBA or accountancy qualification, the other traditional stepping stones to board membership of a blue chip company. 25% of directors have an accountancy qualification while 22% have an MBA.

Companies are increasingly asking us to undertake searches for a more diverse group of candidates. If you are having any issues with attracting a more diverse range of candidates to your business, please get in touch.

* As defined by Times Higher Education world university rankings

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