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Fawcett’s 2020 Sex and Power index – UK still ‘generations away’ from equality in top jobs

The Fawcett Society’s 2020 Sex and Power Index charts the extent of male domination of positions of power – with women still missing in significant numbers from top jobs in politics, the law, civil service, trade unions, charities, professional bodies and sport bodies. The Index also reveals an alarming lack of women of colour across the top jobs in all sectors.

The data in the 2020 Sex and Power Index also reveals the dismally slow pace of change – with stark inequalities continuing to thrive in the UK today.


  •  The law: The Supreme Court has two women justices out of 12 (17%). Since its formation in 2009, there has never been Supreme Court Judge who is a person of colour.
  •  Business: Women make up just over one in 20 CEOs of FTSE 100 companies. This remains unchanged since our last report in 2018. None of these CEOs are women of colour.
  •  Education: Women make up just 39% of Secondary Head Teachers. This figure has not changed since we last reported in 2018 and has risen by just 6% since 2005. Women make up 30% of university vice-chancellors – but only 1% of university vice-chancellors are women are colour.
  • Media: Women make up only 21% of national newspaper editors – with just four women in the top jobs.
  • Sport: Women make up 21% of national Sport Governing Body CEOs, a drop from 26% in 2018. Only 4% of Premier League Clubs are led by women.
  •  House of Commons: 34% of MPs are women – up only 2% in the recent election. Women of colour now make up 17% of the women MPs, which is in line with the population as a whole.
  • House of Lords: the percentage of women is at 27%, which is significantly lower than the Commons and up by only 1% since we last reported in 2018. Only 2% of all peers are women of colour.
  •  Devolved Parliament / Assemblies: there are no women of colour in the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales or the Northern Ireland Assembly.
  •  Cabinet: 30% of the Cabinet are women and 47% of the Shadow Cabinet.
  •  Civil service: Approximately a third of permanent secretaries are women (up from 31% in 2018 to 35% currently). There are no women of colour in these roles.

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Chief Executive said:

“Despite much lip service about the importance of having women in top jobs, today’s data shows we are still generations away from achieving anything close to equality.  We are wasting women’s talent and skills.”

“Male dominance of positions of power remains strong as this 2020 Sex and Power Index shows.  If we want change, we have to make it happen.  That means quotas, targets and policy interventions to remove the barriers to women’s progression.”

“Our research also shows the alarming lack of women of colour in the top tiers of many sectors. Fawcett’s new project with the Runnymede Trust on the pay and progression of women of colour will shine a spotlight on the specific challenges and barriers they face in the workplace. “

Dr Zubaida Haque, Runnymede Trust Deputy Director, said:

“It’s astonishing to think that there has been a significant and growing black and ethnic minority population in this country (now one in six people) since the arrival of Empire Windrush in 1948 and yet we have never had a non-white Supreme Court judge, or a Civil Service Permanent Secretary or a CEO of FTSE-100 companies who is a woman of colour.

“There have been positive steps and achievements towards gender equality in some key areas of public life, but we cannot assume that generic gender initiatives and targets will also address racial discrimination issues for women of colour. This is why Runnymede Trust are excited to be working with the Fawcett Society on a new project focusing on pay and progression patterns for women of colour.”

Kelly Metcalf, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing at Fujitsu UK & Ireland, said:

“Although more women are working in the UK than ever before, there’s still a significant amount to overcome when it comes to tackling gender diversity in the workplace. Evidence shows that diverse teams are what allow organisations to provide collaborative environments where different styles of thinking can come together – allowing for more innovation and productivity – so it is certainly disappointing to see that women are still vastly underrepresented in positions of power.

“A good starting point for business leaders to tackle these gender gaps is to begin an open conversation with the stakeholders, employees, partners and even customers. Only by fully understanding the role that gender parity can play in driving business growth and success will businesses across the UK be consistently motivated to act differently and bring change.

“At the end of the day, the future does look bright for women in the UK, but in order to deliver real change, organisations must commit to a big vision that will fight unacceptable pay gaps, male-dominated boardrooms and unequal growth opportunities. The businesses that will succeed in the long run are the ones that foster a culture of inclusivity, where all employees are supported throughout their career and offered opportunities to grow.”

This report comes as the Fawcett Society launches the Pay and Progression of Women of Colour Project. Working in partnership with leading race equality think tank, the Runnymede Trust, the project will seek to understand the inequalities and intersecting barriers faced women of colour, and the solutions they think will help them to overcome them.

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