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Sensemaker: A seat at the table

Sensemaker: A seat at the table

What just happened

Long stories short

  • Bahamian police arrested FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried at the request of US prosecutors.  
  • Three young boys died after falling into an icy lake in Solihull, with a fourth boy aged six in a critical condition in hospital.  
  • Putin cancelled his regular year-end news conference for the first time in a decade. 
  • Bali’s governor said Indonesia’s ban on sex outside marriage would not apply to tourists. 

A seat at the table

Nearly half Britain’s biggest publicly listed companies have no women in top leadership roles, despite evidence that promoting women is good for business.

Tortoise’s Responsibility100 Index found that 47 FTSE 100 companies have no women in significant management roles such as board chair, chief executive or chief financial officer. 

Our analysis also found there are more than four times as many men as women in chair positions, and over twice as many male senior independent directors. 

So what? The number of women on FTSE-listed company boards has risen to nearly 40 per cent, up from 12 per cent in 2010. But a lot of this growth is in non-executive advisory positions. For real change to take place, women need to be in the decision-making roles. 

By the numbers

  • 73 of Britain’s largest public companies have no women in any of their three main executive roles: chief executive officer (CEO), chief operating officer (COO) or the chief financial officer (CFO).
  • 10: number of FTSE 100 companies with female CEOs, one of whom is due to stand down this year. 
  • 15.2 per cent: median gender pay gap of FTSE 100 companies – nearly twice the national average of 8.3 per cent.
  • 5.2 per cent: proportion of women in senior management at the mining company Fresnillo – the lowest of any FTSE 100 company.

The situation is similar elsewhere, with board diversity improving but executive leadership lagging behind. In the US, women make up 32 per cent of S&P 500 boards, but only 6.4 per cent of CEOs are women. That is just 32 out of 500. Last year, only 14 of Paris’ 120 biggest listed companies were led by a woman.

Sue Vinnicombe, author of the annual Female FTSE Board report, says progress in getting women into executive roles is “dismal”, describing the process of appointing more women to non-executive positions on boards as the “quick fix that took a long time”. 

What next? The FTSE Women Leaders Review, a government-backed body, set suggested targets this year for the biggest 350 listed companies – and some of Britain’s largest private firms – to hit a 40 per cent target of female representation on boards and leadership teams by the end of 2025, including at least one woman in a chair or key executive position. 

Vinnicombe says boards should put explicit guidelines into place to support diverse talent from junior positions all the way up to CEO level, with individuals actively moved across different areas of the business. 

Amanda Mackenzie, a non-executive director at Lloyds Banking Group and chief executive of Business in the Community, a responsible business network, says part of this rotation has to include a “profit and loss” role managing a company’s balance sheet so women realise that “the buck stops with [them]”. 

Aviva, the UK’s largest insurance company, improved representation of women by implementing ‘returnships’, which support women re-entering the workplace after a career break. It’s also one of only four FTSE 100 companies that offer 26 weeks’ parental leave at full pay to both parents. 

A small step for women. The Tortoise Responsibility100 Index found that:

  • Companies with female CEOs have a gender pay gap more than three per cent lower than those with male CEOs. 
  • Companies with over 30 per cent women in senior management saw higher female representation at employee level and offered more weeks of parental leave.

Promoting women is also better for business. McKinsey & Company found that better gender diversity on executive teams is consistently linked with better performance – the best companies are 25 per cent more likely to see above-average profits. So why wait?


For the love of chocolate

The world’s biggest confectionary maker is pushing into emerging markets with 30 per cent yearly increases in its ad budget, chocolate sales targets based on European norms, and bacon-flavoured Snickers. Mars Wrigley’s head of global emerging markets has talked revealingly to the FT. He says people in Kenya and Nigeria eat as little as 200g of chocolate a year compared with 7kg in Europe, and Mars is trying to close the gap. Many convenience stores in Africa, India and Latin America simply don’t stock chocolate, he says, but it’s important for the company that they do because sales are plateauing in the rich world. Hence the sales drive and the new recipes. The bacon Snickers are aimed at Brazil. There’s a pistachio and saffron version for India.



Zeitenwende is the Society for the German Language’s word of the year for 2022. It’s been used a good deal by Chancellor Olaf Scholz and means “turning point”– a reference to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, which he’s also called a “watershed moment in the history of our continent”. There’s little question that the invasion will require a long-term shift in German economic, energy and foreign policies. Nor is there much doubt that if Germany had seen the 2014 annexation of Crimea as a Zeitenwende it wouldn’t be in such turmoil now. Also in the news: Dunkelflaute – a cold snap with little or no wind to drive turbines, leaving you more reliant on oil, gas and coal than ever.

The 100-year life health, education AND GOVERNMENT

Enough is enough 

“Feeling safe should not be a luxury for women,” said Siobhan Blake, the UK’s Criminal Prosecution Service lead for rape and serious offences in new guidance for CPS staff on sexual harassment in public. But too often, it does. Last night’s Dispatches featured horrifying – but for many women recognisable – undercover footage of reporter Ellie Flynn being harassed while alone on streets at night as she pretended to be drunk. In Liverpool, a man follows her back to her hotel room despite her repeatedly telling him she’s “fine on her own”. In London, two men approach her offering taxis; one grabs at her hand and drags it to his crotch. Over the weekend, Home Secretary Suella Braverman announced that street harassment will become criminalised under new laws with the potential for a two-year sentence. The hope is it will encourage more people to report the offences to the police. To note: Flynn observed that one of the most “shocking things” was the lack of action from nearby police and bystanders when she was harassed in London. 

Our planet CLIMATE AND geopolitics

Iran executions

After the dawn call to prayer on Monday, Iran hanged 23 year-old Majid Reza Rahnavard from a construction crane in the northeastern city of Mashhad. He was arrested less than a month ago during anti-government protests on charges of killing two members of the Basij militia. It’s the second execution linked to the protests; last week Mohsen Shekari, a 23-year-old who worked in a coffee shop in Tehran, was hanged in the capital after being convicted of stabbing a security guard. The trials were compared to “lynching committees” by rights groups, while the executions risk fanning public fury rather than crushing the protests. Demonstrators marched in each man’s neighbourhood, the NYT reported, with signs promising: “with each person killed a thousand will rise up”. At least 450 people have died so far during the uprising; 11 more protesters have been sentenced to death. 


Closing the Tavistock

NHS England accelerated the closure of the controversial Gender Identity Development Service at the Tavistock clinic after concerns about the sustainability of the service, and the number of suicides of young people on the waiting list, Tortoise has learned. GIDS is the only NHS clinic in England which treats young people with gender dysphoria and is due to close early next year. There are nearly eight thousand young people on its waiting list. In the Tortoise podcast, The Tavistock: Inside the gender clinic, a senior NHS source said they had heard two different people referring to fifteen suicides in large meetings. The clinic refused to confirm or deny this figure, but said it is conducting an audit which has identified suicides on the waiting list. Inside the Tavistock also reveals that the current director of GIDS, Polly Carmichael, who has run the service for the past thirteen years, is part of the working group which is deciding how the new service will operate. The final two episodes of the podcast are available now in the Tortoise app. 

Thanks for reading. Please tell your friends to sign up, send us ideas and tell us what you think. Email sensemaker@tortoisemedia.com.

Sophie Barnett

Maddy Diment

Additional reporting by Jessica Winch, Giles Whittell, Nina Kuryata, Jasper Corbett and Phoebe Davis.

Photographs Getty Images

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