UK - The 30% Club is to launch a new initiative to boost the number of senior female executives in British companies.

Board composition and gender balance has become an increasingly important issue for investors, particularly for those with an environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy in mind.

Today, the Financial Times reported that the European Commission was currently drafting a proposal that would force Europe's listed companies to reserve at least 40% of their non-executive director board seats for women by 2020. Companies failing to do so would face fines or sanctions, it said.

The 30% Club initiative, called 'The Executive Pipeline Action Group', will work with chief executives from FTSE350 companies in coordinating efforts to improve the female executive pipeline and broadening the progress already made in the past two years to appoint more women non-executive directors within these companies.

Helena Morrissey, chief executive at Newton Investment Management and founder of the 30% Club, said: "This new initiative is a necessary and logical extension of the efforts already underway to develop a healthy pipeline of future female leaders.

"The fact remains that too few women have historically stayed the course to achieve an appropriate balance of men and women in senior management teams, and the 30% Club has to date been looking at specific components of this problem, such as the particularly acute female attrition rate at professional services firms."
According to the 30% Club, concerted and specific efforts are needed to overcome what is still a complex set of reasons why many women leave the workforce at a critical stage in their career - typically, but not always, catalysed by starting a family.

The 30% Club believes that by aggregating the experiences of successful initiatives, pooling evidence of what works along with a frank assessment of the particular challenges women often face in developing their career, and companies face in retaining them, the current impasse can be unlocked.

An important element of this initiative will be to celebrate success stories, shared by existing senior women executives at FTSE350 companies, with the aim of encouraging and supporting younger women to maintain their levels of ambition and develop strategies for personal development.

A series of talks at schools and universities will also be a key part of developing the educative element of the programme.

Jane Scott, UK director of the Professional Boards Forum and 30% Club steering committee member, added: "Companies are increasingly aware that it is vital to retain their women executives to contribute to performance at the most senior levels, and to make women feel they are both valued and needed in business."
The 30% Club is also launching the 'Breaking the Mould' awards with the Financial Mail on Sunday to celebrate innovative efforts to develop and retain female talent at different types of companies.

It has previously come out against quotas for women.