The business case for greater gender diversity has only increased the need for transformation in executive and functional head roles. Yet women are still far from being equally represented in the top legal position at FTSE companies. Progress has been made in the FTSE 100, but in FTSE 250 companies there is a lack of collective understanding of what it takes to maximise the potential of senior female legal leaders.
Gender balance: FTSE general counsel
January 2018 to February 2019*
- 32% of the existing FTSE 100 group general counsel are female
- Women made up 83% of FTSE 100 group GC appointments in 2018-19
- Incremental improvements and progress have been made to address gender imbalance
- 31% of the existing FTSE 250 group GCs are female
- Women made up only 38% of FTSE 250 group GC appointments in 2018-19
- No significant progress in the appointment of senior female legal talent at group GC level
The following measures address ways in which to improve gender diversity in FTSE companies:
Despite considerable diversity and inclusion efforts, several top teams do not hold decision-makers accountable for not reaching diversity targets. When there are fewer female group general counsels than male in the FTSE, there comes a point where organisations should give the opportunity to high potential women and provide them with genuine developmental opportunities.
Female succession planning and development programmes
Early identification and acceleration of high-potential female lawyers is paramount to see more women in the top jobs. Organisations need to invest time and resources in designing and implementing effective succession planning and meaningful mentorship programmes.
Unconscious bias training
When appointing a GC, companies should insist that search firms and HR directors have an adequate number of women in the candidate pool to help fight unconscious bias. Statistical evidence shows hiring processes largely favour men. In 2016, the Harvard Business Review highlighted the results of a study showing that if a second female candidate is included in a shortlist pool of candidates, the chance of a woman being appointed was 79 times greater than when there is only one woman in the finalist pool.
Overall, progress continues to be made within the FTSE 100, but the pace of change is still far too slow when it comes to women being appointed into executive legal roles within the FTSE 250. The challenge is for all companies to do more and do it faster in order to benefit from the widest possible pool of talent.
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*Data taken from the London Stock Exchange, FTSE company websites and public profiles. All data is validated by Fox Rodney Search and the information in this article is correct at the time of publishing.