Fifty leading female professionals from Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are highlighted in the 2019 Women to Watch supplement, published annually by Cranfield University’s School of Management alongside the Female FTSE Board Report. The Female FTSE Board Report, launched today, reveals that only 11% of women on FTSE 100 boards are from BAME backgrounds*.

Challenging assumptions with a breadth of talent

The Women to Watch supplement showcases a wide range of women available for, and ideally suited to, board positions on FTSE 350 companies now or in the near future. The 2019 edition, produced in collaboration with the Black British Business Awards and The Network of Networks BAME – Multicultural Chapter (TNON), features women from a range of sectors and from across the BAME spectrum.

Dr Doyin Atewologun, Director of the Gender, Leadership and Inclusion Centre at Cranfield University, said: “This year we challenge assumptions about the type of woman suited to board positions showcasing senior women who come from backgrounds historically under-represented in the senior leadership pipeline. We show that board members need not be drawn solely from the finance, legal, banking or professional services sectors, but can also come from the worlds of media, technology, academia and the third sector.” 

While the 2019 Female FTSE Board Report shows that many companies are on track to reach the target of 33% of board positions going to women by 2020, Dr Atewologun says businesses cannot be complacent: “We need to be sure that we are not only advancing progress for a certain small group of women, but are truly pushing board diversity in every sense. We hope executive search firms, FTSE Board Chairs and other Directors are inspired by the rich talent we highlight, to look at gender diversity - including men - in a different way.”

Highlighting a ready talent pool

The 2019 Women to Watch supplement includes eminent women such as Sonita Alleyne OBE, the first black leader of an Oxbridge college, who is Master of Jesus College, Cambridge; Nishma Robb, Marketing Director at Google UK; Su-Mei Thompson, CEO of charity Media Trust; Hina Nagarajan, MD of African Emerging Markets for Diageo; Sonia Cargan, Chief Diversity Officer for American Express and Sandra Federighi, Global Chief Financial Officer for Stella McCartney.

Hina Nagarajan of Diageo, a company that is highlighted in the Female FTSE Board Report as having a significant number of women at all levels, says: “My own experience, through my career and of different organisations, has shown me the commercial power of a diverse leadership and workforce. Having women from different backgrounds in leadership roles not only creates the inspiration for the next generation, but also brings true representation of the consumer group any business must address. For me, having a diversity of backgrounds and of course, gender balance, will ensure a culture where everyone can do their best and enhance the winning potential of any organisation through powerful ideas and solutions.”

UK Boardrooms must tap into power of diversity

The Women to Watch supplement is supported this year by the Black British Business Awards and TNON, two organisations that champion diversity and inclusion.

Melanie Eusebe and Sophie Chandauka, Co-Founders of the Black British Business Awards, said: “In 2019, it is simply unacceptable for any FTSE 350 nomination committee to refer to the common refrain that there are no Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic (BAME) women on boards because the talent does not exist. Women of colour are often missing from the boardroom inclusion discourse, from the search firm shortlists and, ultimately, from the PLC board. The BBBAwards joins Cranfield University in this bold step to disrupt the status quo by declaring, through the profiles of these 50 impressive women, that BAME women of commercial excellence and tenure exist in substantial numbers.”

Diane Greenidge, Founder of TNON, said: “These inspiring women, already leaders in their respective fields, have the potential to bring the power of greater diversity to UK boardrooms. We join Cranfield University in urging businesses to realise the positive impact that women from a broader range of backgrounds can have on their success.”

The Women to Watch supplement was introduced by Cranfield University’s Gender, Leadership and Inclusion Centre in 2009.

 *For context, UK census data puts the BAME population at 14% but in London, where many FTSE 350 firms are based, statistics put it much higher, at more than 40%. Many FTSE firms are also international companies, and around 80% of the world’s population is estimated to be non-white.