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FTSE executives Penny James and Nimesh Patel appointed co-chairs of the FTSE Women Leaders Review

Penny James and Nimesh Patel have today (Thursday 14 April) been confirmed as co-chairs of the Government-backed FTSE Women Leaders Review, which monitors women’s representation in leadership positions at the UK’s biggest companies.

Following on from the highly successful Hampton-Alexander and Davies Reviews, the FTSE Women Leaders Review urges companies to continue raising their game on gender diversity and open up opportunities to everyone.

Penny James is CEO of Direct Line Group, which encompasses well-known British brands including Churchill and Green Flag, as well as Senior Independent Director at Hargreaves Lansdown. Before joining Direct Line, Penny held a number of senior roles in the insurance industry.

Nimesh Patel is CFO of Spirax-Sarco Engineering, a FTSE 100 company based in the South-West of the UK, having previously served in the same role for the De Beers Group. Nimesh is also a Trustee of ReachOut, a mentoring charity for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:

“Companies are more profitable and prosperous when they embrace the talents of the whole population. That’s why we want to ensure everyone, whatever their background, has equal opportunity to succeed and achieve on merit.

“While our voluntary, business-led approach has opened up more senior opportunities for women, there’s always room for improvement.

“Penny and Nimesh, with their impressive track records at the highest levels of business, will be perfectly placed to help continue to champion women in the boardroom.”

Denise Wilson, who was instrumental to the success of the previous Hampton – Alexander Review, will continue as Chief Executive, bringing with her extensive knowledge and experience that will be invaluable in this next phase.

Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, said:

“I welcome the appointment of the new co-chairs and the recommendations of the FTSE Women Leaders Review. Increasing the representation of women at senior levels is not only the mark of forward-thinking organisations, it’s just good business sense.

“We will shortly put forward a range of measures to advance equality for women at work, increasing opportunity, and tackling the issues that are holding women back as we look to ensure that everyone can reach their full potential.”

CEO of Direct Line, Penny James, said:

“I believe that if you are in a position to effect change you should, so I was glad to accept this tremendous opportunity. The case for increasing women’s representation on boards and in senior leadership is well known and it’s now time to build on the advances, remove barriers to progression and drive further change. I look forward to working alongside Nimesh, Denise Wilson, the Review’s CEO who has led the work so successfully, and the Review’s supporters to advocate for and encourage business to deliver on its recommendations and provide transparency on progress.”

CFO of Spirax-Sarco Engineering, Nimesh Patel, said:

“It’s an honour to help lead the next phase of this Review which will not only seek to increase the gender representation in the boardroom and in Leadership teams, but will help break the bias, ensuring that there are more women in key senior roles. I’m looking forward to working alongside Penny and Denise to promote the empowerment needed to create a more equal set of opportunities across UK businesses.”

Over the last ten years, the Government’s unique voluntary approach to improving women’s representation – without the use of mandatory quotas – has proven successful.

In February, the FTSE Women Leaders Review published its first report setting out the state of women’s representation on boards as of the end of 2021. It found that the UK had climbed to second in the international rankings for women’s representation on boards at FTSE 100 level, with almost 40% of UK FTSE 100 board positions now held by women, compared with 12.5% just 10 years ago.

The Review has also set out important new recommendations to encourage British companies to build on this progress including:

  • the voluntary target for FTSE 350 Boards and for leadership teams is increased to a minimum of 40% women’s representation by the end of 2025
  • FTSE 350 companies to have at least one woman in the Chair, Senior Independent Director role on the Board and/or one woman in the Chief Executive Officer or Finance Director role by the end of 2025
  • extending the scope of the FTSE Women Leaders Review beyond FTSE 350 companies to include the largest 50 private companies in the UK by sales.

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