• Tue. May 28th, 2024

EY: Appointments of women as UK financial service directors falls 28 percentage points in 2023

The percentage of women appointed as UK financial service directors dropped 28 percentage points in 2023, shrinking from 61% in 2022 to 33% in 2023 according to a poll from EY European Financial Services Boardroom Monitor.

The decline marked the UK as having the lowest percentage of female appointments across major European markets, with France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy coming in at 64%, 43%, 54%, and 45%, respectively.

All of the monitored companies in the UK did have a woman at the boardroom level, with the total split across firms remaining at the same level as last year, 57% men and 43% women. However, over a fifth of companies still have a representation of less than 40% women on its board.

Currently, the FCA requires all listed UK companies to hit a 40% threshold, a regulation which came into place for financial periods onwards from 1 April 2022.

See also: An industry ‘founded on power imbalance’: ‘Sexism in the City’ campaign examines barriers to women in finance

Anna Anthony, EY UK Financial Services managing partner, said: “While annual fluctuations in the make-up of boardrooms are to be expected, a decline in the number of UK female director appointments of this magnitude is concerning. Tougher reporting requirements on gender diversity, requiring firms to comply or explain their current diversity metrics, are clearly not yet driving the necessary change at pace.”

The report also noted a differentiation in c-suite roles held between men and women, with 81% of incumbent directors appointed to boards in 2023. However, only 36% of those were women, compared to 50% in 2022. The emphasis on c-suite was slightly lower in Europe, with 59% of appointments bringing this experience.

Andrew Hobbs, EMEIA Center for Board Matters leader, said: “C-suite experience is understandably a highly influencing factor in the appointment of financial services board directors given the skills and leadership qualities it brings.

“While there are de facto a smaller number of female candidates with c-suite experience, the ideal board is not necessarily made up entirely of individuals who have all held the most senior roles. Diversity of experience should not be underestimated, especially as financial services firms increasingly navigate complex new focus areas which require specialist, less traditional skills and experience, for example, in sustainability, technology, risk and geopolitics.”

Appointments with ESG experience also took a hit in 2023, down to 15% from 31% in 2023. Tech experience increased, from 22% in 2022 to 30% in 2023, and political experience slightly decreased from 39% to 37%. Across current boards, women outpace men in both tech and ESG experience, with 11% of men having ESG experience compared to 22% of women and 22% of men with tech experience as opposed to 44% of women.

Omar Ali, EY EMEIA Financial Services managing partner, said: “As global geopolitical dynamics continue to evolve, and technology and sustainability demands on firms grow ever more complex, bringing new skills and breadth of experience to the boardroom is a priority for financial services chairs across Europe.

“Structuring a board that is sufficiently broad in scope yet attuned to the multitude of changes across the sector is a balancing act, which chairs and boards across Europe are proactively addressing.”

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