- The economic shock from the coronavirus has thrown a curveball to the progress made in recent years in supporting more women to take on leadership roles.
- The predicted year for gender parity in listed U.K. firms has gone up by four years to 2036, according to the research.
LONDON — Gender parity on U.K. company boards has suffered a setback in the wake of the pandemic, with new research saying that it will now take an additional four years before this equality is achieved.
The report, published Wednesday by consultancy The Pipeline, assessed the situation in the FTSE 350, which includes firms listed on the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 — the two main stock indexes in the U.K.
The predicted year for gender parity on executive boards at these publicly-listed U.K. firms has gone up by four years to 2036, according to the research.
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"The pandemic provided an opportunity to push forward with meaningful change, but instead we have gone backwards and the prospect for women seeking advancement to the senior echelons of FTSE 350 companies looks as desolate as ever," the firm said in a statement.
The Pipeline's Women Count report showed that companies where at least 50% of their board members were women experienced a profit margin of 21.2%. On the other hand, firms without women on their executive committees saw a drop in profits of 17.5%.
"If companies continue to actively ignore the importance of gender diversity at the top, the U.K. will suffer financially and struggle to bounce back quickly from the pandemic," the consultancy firm said.
Other institutions have previously warned about the impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on gender equality, and many researchers have noted that a more diverse representation on company boards is often correlated with a more successful business.
The International Monetary Fund, for instance, said in October that women were among those at the highest risk from the economic crisis. At the time, the Fund highlighted that women were more likely to be working in sectors that were brought to a halt by social restrictions, while also taking on the biggest proportion of childcare.
The IMF also asked governments to take action to address gender inequality.
"That is why it is so important to step in with targeted policy intervention to ensure that this does not lead to a persistent widening of inequality across gender," Damiano Sandri, a deputy division chief at the IMF's Research Department, told CNBC at the time.
"For example an important policy measure that can be used is to ensure that people have access to parental leave and I am using people because of course we want to provide women with the opportunity to have parental leave to care for children, but we also need to ensure that men themselves can take time off from work so they can share equally the burden of looking after children while schools are closed," Sandri explained.