Sex and the FTSE 100

We reviewed the Annual Reports of the FTSE 100 companies to assess compliance with the new FCA requirements for listed companies to report on the diversity of their boards. We also searched to see whether sex was mentioned in their commentary on workforce diversity. Here’s what we found…

New FCA Listing Rules
In April 2022 the FCA issued new Listing Requirements regarding the diversity of company boards in relation to women and minority ethnic groups[1]. In summary, companies are required to report against three diversity targets:

1) at least 40% of the individuals on the board of directors should be women
2) at least one of the senior positions (chair, chief executive, senior independent director, chief financial officer) should be held by a woman
3) at least one individual on the board of directors should be from a minority ethnic background

We reviewed the latest available Annual Reports of the FTSE 100 companies in relation to these targets. The requirements came into force for year-ends starting on or after 1 April 2022 and as such only thirteen FTSE 100 companies have so far been required to report against these targets.[2] However, all of the companies were disclosing the information required to assess compliance. The overall findings from our review are:

  • 43% of the FTSE 100 companies were in full compliance with targets 1) to 3) based on our analysis at the year-end date (or chosen reference date in the reporting year)
  • 54% of companies did not meet the requirements due to less than 40% of women on the board and/or no women in senior positions. A few however expected to remedy this shortly after year-end
  • Only four companies did not appear to meet target 3), the requirement to have a director from an ethnic minority background on the board

In terms of targets 1) and 2) it was difficult to assess whether companies were reporting the number of women on the board on the basis of sex or whether this would include those who self-identity as women i.e. on the basis of gender identity. This was a key area of feedback when the FCA consulted on the new requirements with the majority of respondents suggesting sex should be the basis of these targets not gender identity[3]. Our review found:

  • Only two companies stated clearly that their reporting in relation to women on the Board was collected on the basis of sex. SSE plc an energy company headquartered in Scotland stated that their data on board diversity was based on ‘biological sex’ as did Airtel Africa plc, a telecommunications company
  • Nineteen companies adopted a gender identity approach. No board directors of these companies disclosed a gender identity other than ‘man’ or ‘woman’ but we note that ‘other’ is a reporting field available under the new rules and adopted by these companies
  • The approach adopted for other companies (over 75% of reports reviewed) was largely unclear. In some cases the lack of clarity was due to the use of the word ‘gender’ which can be used as a synonym for sex or can mean gender identity. Given existing reporting requirements in relation to the sex of employees in the Companies Act[4], many firms may well have been reporting sex data even if this was not clearly stated. The lack of clarity may be addressed by some companies at future year-ends when the new rules come into force for more of the constituents. However, the approach was not always clear even for companies already in scope.

Erasure of sex
58% of the FTSE 100 companies did not include the word ‘sex’ within their Annual Report. Many included words such as sexuality or sexual orientation but sex as a stand-alone word did not appear[5]. This is despite most companies including commentary on the desire to increase the number of women within their workforce either in general or at senior levels. Even companies with good overall female representation might still report a significant gender pay gap and provide commentary on targets to improve this.

Our review found that where sex was mentioned this tended to be within a statement on employment practices in relation to anti-discrimination and equal opportunities (examples below). It would not be used in general throughout the report when talking about the representation of women.

Example 1 Sex appears once in the following statement whereas the word gender appears 23 times:
“Job applicants, employees and contingent workers will receive equal treatment regardless of age, disability, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity or any other characteristic protected by applicable law.”

Example 2 – Sex appears once in the following statement whereas the word gender appears 40 times:
The purpose of the policy is to provide equality, fairness and respect for all in our employment, whether temporary, part-time or full-time; to not unlawfully discriminate because of a protected characteristic (race, religion or belief, disability, sex, gender reassignment, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy and maternity, marital or civil partnership status) and to oppose and avoid all forms of unlawful discrimination.

Example 3 – Sex appears once in the following statement whereas the word gender appears 37 times:
We do not accept unlawful discrimination in our recruitment or employment practices on any grounds including but not limited to: sex, race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, national or indigenous origin, disability, age, marital or civil partner status, pregnancy or maternity, sexual orientation, gender identity, expression or reassignment, HIV or AIDS status, parental status, military and veterans status, flexibility of working arrangements, rel
igion or belief.”

Further information gleaned from our review was the number of FTSE 100 companies that declared a relationship with Stonewall, an organisation that campaigns for gender self-ID policies and advises companies to adopt similar policies in the workplace. We noted that two companies (Hargreaves Lansdown plc and Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc) explicitly referenced the provision of gender-neutral toilets/facilities within their commentary on workforce diversity (unclear if this is in addition to separate sex provision). In total, at least twenty-three companies in the FTSE 100 have a relationship with Stonewall, either referenced in their Annual Report and/or publicised in Stonewall’s Top 100 Employer 2023 list[6]. Together these companies employ nearly 1.5 million people.

  • Auto Trader Group plc
  • Aviva Plc
  • BAE Systems plc
  • Barclays plc
  • Burberry Group plc
  • Experian Plc
  • GSK plc
  • Hargreaves Lansdown plc
  • HSBC Holdings plc
  • Johnson Matthey Plc
  • NatWest Group plc
  • Pearson plc
  • Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc
  • Rolls Royce Holdings Plc
  • Sainsbury (J) plc
  • Severn Trent Plc
  • St James’s Place Plc
  • Taylor Wimpey plc
  • Tesco plc
  • Unilever plc
  • United Utilities Group Plc
  • Vodafone Group plc
  • Whitbread plc

Our call to action
We call on companies to report against diversity targets 1) and 2) on the basis of sex. This aligns to existing Companies Act requirements and ensures that women at the top of the business are accurately counted. This will also ensure that sex is given, and seen to be given, due consideration by the organisation as a whole. This does not preclude companies reporting separately on other characteristics such as gender identity in addition to sex including in relation to board members. However, if commentary or data in relation to gender identity is also provided within Annual Reports, it should be clear to the reader that this is a different lens to commentary or data on sex provided elsewhere.

[1] PS22/3: Diversity and inclusion on company boards and executive management (
[2] Our review was based on the FTSE 100 constituents announced on 31/5/2023 (pursuant to the June 2023 quarterly review) and the latest Annual Reports publicly available at 17/6/2023. Most of these companies latest Annual Reports were for the year ended 31/12/2022.
[3]The feedback received by the FCA in relation to target 1) is covered in section 2.4 to 2.6 of the FCA Policy Statement linked in footnote 1. 438 out of 439 responses received by the FCA as part of the consultation on the new rules opposed a self-identification approach in favour of sex.
[4] Companies Act 2006 414C(8) requires reporting on the number of directors, senior managers and total employees of each sex (potentially inconsistent with the requirements per footnote 1)
[5] Erasure of sex is a contemporary political issue, see The political erasure of sexJane Clare Jones with Lucy MacKenzie (2020), Oxford University The-Political-Erasure-of-Sex_Full-Report.pdf (
[6] The Full List: Top 100 Employers 2023 (