10 August, 2021

Green Park Business Leaders Index 2021 | FTSE 100

Welcome to this year’s Green Park Business Leaders Index, our survey on progress being made by the UK’s major private sector businesses to achieve greater ethnic and gender diversity at senior levels.

We have been analysing diversity of the FTSE 100 senior leadership since 2014, originally as the Green Park Leadership 10,000 and now as the Green Park Business Leaders Index. In addition to our usual analysis of industry sectors, for the first time our analysis this year includes a breakdown of gender and ethnocultural diversity by job function.

This year’s Index covers a tumultuous period due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For ethnic minority communities, in particular, the impact has been disproportionate. A Government report on addressing Covid-19 health inequalities noted high infection and mortality rates for ethnic minority groups in the first wave of the coronavirus. We have also seen Black Lives Matter protests highlight racial injustice. Anti-racism protests took place around the UK, reigniting debate about our nation’s history as well as institutionalised treatment and perceptions of race.

Of course, the pandemic has not only disproportionately affected ethnic minority communities but also women, too. The United Nations reported in 2020 that the health, economic, security and social protection impacts of Covid-19 are exacerbated for women and girls. The UN said: “Women will be the hardest hit by this pandemic but they will also be the backbone of recovery in communities. Every policy response that recognises this will be the more impactful for it”.

Against this backdrop, our survey revealed some positive signs of progress towards greater gender and ethnic diversity at board and executive committee levels, but where change is happening, it is often within the corporate sidelines – roles and functions which are far less likely routes into the top tier of leadership than those travelled by their white, male counterparts.

Please find our key findings below or scroll down to download the full report. 

We must transform words and promises into action and results. We as business leaders must do more to improve the diversity of our boards and leadership teams.  What I hear from my conversations with Chairs and CEOs is a clear desire to make progress and an openness to embracing new thinking that’s needed to deliver change. I welcome the recommendations set out in this report and I encourage business leaders to adopt them.

We must all do better in listening to colleagues from underrepresented groups and challenge behaviours that create barriers for talent to progress.

Lord Karan Bilimoria
Change the Race Ratio | Chair & Founder
CBI | President

Green Park’s Annual Business Leaders Index reveals Britain’s top firms improving boardroom diversity - but “corporate sidelining” of women and ethnic minorities

Despite some progress on diversity, in the upper echelons of Britain’s top companies ethnic minorities and females are still being shunted into functions which are far less likely routes into the top tier of leadership than those travelled by their white, male counterparts.

Most analyses of corporate CEO backgrounds show a preference for executives with experience in finance, sales and operations. Executive recruitment and diversity consultancy Green Park’s annual FTSE 100 Business Leaders Index reveals that Britain’s female and ethnic minority business leaders remain largely consigned to functions such as HR, Diversity and Marketing & Communications. They hold less influence, have lower salaries and are less likely to be on track to C-Suite roles.

The survey also reveals that one of the least diverse functions is Diversity & Inclusion, which is disproportionately a white and female preserve – nearly two out of three of these senior roles are filled by white women.

The Business Leaders Index shows for the first time that there are no black leaders in C-suite roles at FTSE 100 companies, dropping to zero after stalling for the past 6 years. This would appear to confirm that ethnic minority leaders are diverted towards the pathways least likely to lead to the top.

At the ‘Top 40’ pipeline level, some functions are dominated by one particular gender or ethnicity. Green Park’s research reveals that 85.4% of Diversity & Inclusion leadership roles at FTSE100 companies are held by women. 62.5% of Diversity and Leadership leaders are white women, with ethnic minority females the second most represented group at 22.9%. Ethnic minority males are the least represented in this function at 6.3%. Human Resources is also predominantly a white female enclave at 55%, while white men dominate in Digital, Data and Technology (76%), Governance and Operations (73%) Commercial and procurement (71%) and Finance (69%) – all much more direct routes to the top.

Green Park’s track record of placing 53% female and 35% ethnic minority candidates into board level roles over the past year demonstrates that diverse leadership talent is out there and that businesses are receptive to hiring diverse senior executives across a range of functions. The company has expanded its activities across the private sector and in particular successfully placing candidates in functions such as IT, Finance and Digital Technology. 

Among the key recommendations of Green Park’s Business Leaders Index, the consultancy encourages organisations to adopt  a new rule to highlight any key business decisions, such as major appointments or acquisitions, taken by a leadership team which is all male or all-white. The company’s own board has instructed that under the “Green Park Rule” any spending decision above 1% of turnover must be made by a diverse group; if this is not possible, the fact should always be reported to the board and noted in the company’s annual report. At Green Park, this rule typically covers any major investment decision, acquisitions or senior appointments.


Our most recent research report, the Green Park Business Leaders Index 2024 | FTSE 350 was published 5 March 2024 and can be viewed here.

Sir Trevor Phillips OBE

Written By

Sir Trevor Phillips OBE


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