According to The Pipeline’s annual Women Count report, FTSE350 businesses in the packaging sector feature at least 40% women in their executive committees – yet only one in five commercial roles on executive committees as a whole is held by a woman.

The Women Count report analyzes gender equality at Executive Committee level within the UK’s largest businesses. Its 2023 position observes that women often occupy ‘functional’ roles in HR and marketing, yet they are less often given positions with P&L responsibilities; the percentage of FTSE350 companies with a female CEO has risen by 4% since 2019, yet the current figure remains low at 9%.

Although this year marks the first time female representation on the board of FTSE350 companies has exceeded 30%, only 18% have a female chief financial officer, even though nearly half of those qualifying as accountants are women. Similarly, only 13% of the FTSE100 were found to have a female chief executive officer.

Some sectors are said to have exceeded 40% in female representation on their executive committees, including transport, health, and insurance. On the other hand, the IT, automobile, mining, and private equity sectors, among others, fall below 20%, and neither of the Private Equity businesses included in the report featured women on their executive committees.

A survey of senior women was introduced in this year’s survey to gauge the challenges faced by female employees in their careers and understand the causes behind their minority on business organization boards. The results suggest that workplace environment and culture-related issues are preventing 47% of respondents from developing into leadership roles.

Furthermore, 44% reported that their organization was not putting enough emphasis on helping women achieve their career goals, while 48% underlined flexibility and career advancement as the most important decisions leadership teams could make to help women progress.

“If companies are to improve their gender parity, they must remove barriers to success such as the ‘woman tax’,” said Professor Geeta Nargund, founder and CEO of CREATE Fertility. “This means they should stop allocating additional tasks for women to perform alongside their day-jobs without placing the same expectation on their male peers. An awareness of potential blind spots such as these will help build a fairer workplace culture.”

Sue O’Brien, chair of The Pipeline, continued: “The glacial rate of progress towards gender parity demonstrated in our report is a serious cause for concern. Businesses must not shy away from some of these uncomfortable truths.

“Leaders need to examine their workplace culture and ensure that their promotion procedures are truly equitable as well as being merit-based. Taking care of, developing and investing in the workforce you already have is a priority.”

Margaret Edge, programme director at The Pipeline, added: “The glass ceiling is far from being smashed: this year’s count demonstrated that it may be cracked, but it’s still firmly in place in the majority of organisations. Respondents to our survey highlighted the need for businesses to continue to invest in leadership development to ensure women succeed at the highest level.

“We are calling on business to set itself measurable targets on gender parity in P&L and executive leadership roles just as they have on boards.”

The results follow trends noticed by Gartner in last year’s Women in Supply Chain survey. These results shed light on a 15% increase in women in C-level positions in supply chain organizations, alongside a decrease in the total number of women in the supply chain workforce since 2021.

With female workers also remaining underrepresented in the European engineering industry, Carey Causey, President, Ball Beverage Packaging Europe, EMEA, echoes The Pipeline’s findings – calling for supportive work environments, equal opportunities, and action against gender biases to encourage more women into the industry.

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