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FTSE-350 bosses urged to promote women execs

Listed firms are under pressure to bolster diversity

By Mark Kleinman, City Editor

The boards of 250 of Britain's largest companies will this week be challenged to promote more women to senior leadership roles amid a cacophony of criticism about gender diversity and sexual discrimination in the public and private sectors.

Sky News has learnt that a review to be published on Thursday will extend a target previously applied on a voluntary basis to FTSE-100 companies to the entire FTSE-350 index.

That will mean all of Britain's largest public companies being asked to ensure that one-third of the roles on their executive committees and of direct reports to those committees are held by women by the end of the decade.

The extended target will be outlined by Sir Philip Hampton, who took the helm of the project alongside Dame Helen Alexander last year.

Sir Philip Hampton chairs Anglo's remuneration committee
Sir Philip Hampton is currently chairman of GSK

Dame Helen died in August, aged 60.

Sources close to the review said it would highlight some progress towards another target – having 33% of FTSE-350 board positions filled by women by 2020.

It will show that 28% of those directorships are held by women today, against just 12% when Lord Davies, the former Trade Minister, began work to improve boardroom diversity in 2012.

However, progress towards the executive pipeline target over the last 12 months is understood to have been modest, reflecting what many executives believe is a structural problem in promoting women to more senior roles that could take a generation to fix.

(From LtoR) British president of the CBI (confederation of British Industry) Helen Alexander, French Business confederation Medef head Laurence Parisot and Italian president of Confindustria, Emma Marcegaglia, take part in a press conference during the B8 Business Leaders Meeting on April 8, 2011 in Paris. AFP PHOTO BERTRAND GUAY (Photo credit should read BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/Getty Images)
Dame Helen Alexander died in August

The latest update of the Hampton-Alexander review will come during a period of unprecedented scrutiny of gender equiality in both the private sector and politics following widespread revelations of sexual harassment in Westminster and Hollywood.

Theresa May recently called for smaller companies to publish details of their gender pay gap, and to improve opportunities for women to progress through corporate ranks.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy declined to comment.

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