Three in four Russell Group grads in senior FTSE 100 positions are women

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New research suggests women need degrees from prestigious universities to get ahead more than men do (Source: Getty)

Female UK business leaders are three times more likely to need a qualification from an elite university to get top jobs than their male counterparts, according to new research by executive search agency Green Park.

Among top 20 employees at FTSE 100 companies, 76 per cent of Russell Group graduates and 70 per cent of Ivy League graduates are women.

Raj Tulsiani, CEO of Green Park, says this shows that “female leaders need to achieve more than men before they even start their careers.”

These greater demands on women have been linked to the lack of female representation at the top levels of industry. The same research found that there has been further decline in female FTSE 100 executive directors, with women making up just ten per cent of those on boards.

Baroness Royall, who chairs Green Park’s diversity initiative, said: “There’s a long way to go before there is a truly level playing field for men and women in business and it’s important for the UK’s largest companies to recognise that they may be missing out on strong leaders by putting such focus on university hierarchy.”

However the report also showed that efforts to put more women in non-executive director roles at FTSE 100 companies are paying off, with 35 per cent of positions now held by women.

And there was more good news for women in business as it emerged that they now occupy 35 per cent of managerial positions in the UK, up from 32 per cent in the previous year, according to Santander analysis of ONS data.

However, Santander also pointed out that just 32 women are executive directors at FTSE 250 companies.

“Getting more women into business should be an absolute priority for the UK,” said Sue Douthwaite, managing director of Santander Business Banking. “Unfortunately, the data shows that too few women are at the top of UK businesses or setting up their own companies, and this needs to change.”

Research by the Federation of Small Businesses has previously shown that only 18 per cent of smaller firms which are employers are majority-led by women.