FTSE 100: The great ring of power, 2018 – “there are more Davids than women”

In a study conducted by Leeds Hacks, the 100 most powerful board directors on the FTSE 100 list were revealed. Among the surprising results, we discovered that the most powerful board director in the FTSE 100 is a woman.

Despite the research showing that men hold the most corporate power, three out of the top 10 board directors are women. The research was conducted by a group of Leeds Hacks reporters who drew data about FTSE 100 from official websites.

Bloomberg and Companies House were the main sources of facts and figures about board directors and their companies. The study shows how board directors of FTSE 100 companies, also tend to have connections with other high ranking companies, within FTSE 100 and 250.

Directors with 6 connections to FTSE 100 companies. Click here to see the complete ring of power.

By quantifying the data and joining up the links between directors and the boards they sit on, the final study shows the current top 100 most powerful board directors. From this research, several interesting connections can be drawn.

In an industry which is mainly dominated by men, women must try harder in aspects where men are given more opportunity. The Guardian spoke to Jane Scott, a director of the Professional Boards Forum: “[The appointment of women is] really good news. [2013] was a terribly slow year.”

Difference between men and women on the board of directors in FTSE 100

According to the Independent, the percentage of women on FTSE 100 boards was only 17.4 per cent in 2013. According to our study, this year, 28.5% of directors are women, compared to 71.5% being men.

John Norman Robinson, Director of Symphony Cars Ltd, says;

“70 to 80 percent of women settle down and have kids and running the home takes up a lot of time. Running a family is probably one of the biggest things that holds women back, not because they’re women, but because of family commitments.”

However, Leeds Hacks’ research showed that although there are more men in the list of top board directors, the top board director is Pamela J Kirby, who has connections with 3 companies in the top 100 FTSE list and two within the top 250 FTSE list.

Pamela is a board director for Smith & Nephew, Reckitt Benckiser and DCC plc, which are 3 of the most successful companies in the UK. Robinson also says “ I think women are far more efficient than men, thats a fact.” He continues “I think if there was more women running high-end jobs, I think it would knock a lot more men into order.”

Mr. Robinson says the fact our research shows a woman, Pamela J Kirby, is the top board director, “can only open more doors and make it better. I think women are far more efficient than men.”


In a society where feminism has a bigger following than ever, having a woman ranked as number one is a very positive advancement within the world of business. Not only this, but there are many influential women who also feature on the FTSE 100 list…

Elizabeth Lucy Corley, board member at BAE and Pearson, gave Allianz some advice that she recommended to women who aspire to be top managers. She said: “Probably the one thing I would suggest is they have a real confidence in themselves, be sure of what they can do and be certain that they will make a difference.”

When asked about what it is that makes a company fair and equal Mr. Robinson said;

“It’s equal opportunities. I think there is equal opportunities now in every business. I think if you look at this around the world, it shows. We’ve just had Hillary Clinton running for the presidency of the biggest and most powerful country in the world. We started it off with Margaret Thatcher a long time ago, and obviously we have a female prime minister now.”

“I think the percentage now, going back over the last 15-20 years, is higher for stay-at-home husbands then it ever was, which is good for women.” 

Despite the study being a list of publicly unknown corporate businessmen and women, Nandi Mandela is one of the only names familiar to the public. Nandi Mandela is the granddaughter of the late Nelson Mandela, so out of all the board directors of FTSE 100 companies she holds one of the highest profiles. Following on from her grandfather’s legacy, Nandi Mandela is a director at Mediclinic International, whose sector is in healthcare equipment and services.

With so many powerful businessmen and women sitting on the directors board of the most successful companies in the UK, is it concerning that we don’t know who they are? Having corporate power gives a person an elevated amount of authority, and individuals that have a seat on more than one FTSE 100 company have a lot of influence over decisions made in the business world.

Robinson says “If you look at Conservative and Labour, they’ve always had donations from big companies that wanted their party to be successful. Its corruption of the highest level”.

So, by having Nandi Mandela sat on the board of directors for Mediclinic International, it is comforting to recognise someone who is making vital decisions for the company. Her family has a strong history of taking action for the benefit of the public, and Nandi’s influence at Mediclinic International reinforces this. Many of the names of these powerful individuals aren’t recognisable, and the public often see business people as capitalists, who are viewed as greedy and looking out for themselves. Mandela defies this image and puts faith back into the role of high-ranking company directors.

Dr Nicholas Beech, Course Director at Leeds Business School says “Large corporations are global entities that manage a diverse range of corporate activities and income sources. They have the insight and ability morph to accommodates the environment that best suits their needs and therefore can exert influence over governments.”

“With Google, because they employ so many people in the UK, they let them pay minimum tax and they are getting away with having an offshore account. My corporation tax bill on profits this year was more than Google’s”, said Robinson.

By Sian Doherty, Chris Boyle, Sarah Mattimoe









About the Author

This article was produced by a student or students on the BA in Journalism at Leeds Beckett University.

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