Gender imbalance in company share schemes I Boodle Hatfield

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03 May 2022

Twice as many men as women granted options in company share schemes

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Twice as many men as women are granted options in company shares suggests a study * by Boodle Hatfield, a leading law firm.

An analysis of 33,400 grants of tax advantaged share options by gender show that 69% are to men and 31% are to women.

Similarly, an analysis of 14,260 different tax advantaged share options that have been exercised shows that women accounted for just 30% of option grants exercised and men 70%.

Boodle Hatfield says the figures helps confirm that the difference in remuneration between men and women at senior levels is likely to be even starker than the 10% gender pay gap reported for all jobs in the UK. Data from the Government’s gender pay gap reporting scheme shows that for every £1 earned by a man, women earned just 90p.

Charlie Hewlett, Senior Associate at Boodle Hatfield says: “The gulf in share options granted to men and women shows there is clearly considerable work to be done in narrowing the gender remuneration gap.”

“Share option schemes can be a powerful retention tool, especially for managers in high growth sectors. These figures are likely to reflect the ongoing underrepresentation of women in such roles.”

Check Warner, co-founder of Ada Ventures, a venture capital firm that invests in overlooked founders and markets says: “The gender gap in share options eclipses the gap in basic pay between men and women. Women are missing out on crucial opportunities to build wealth and to build stakes in the businesses they work for. This is bad for our economy and anyone involved in the technology industry. It will lead to fewer female angel investors, fewer repeat female founders and fewer female VCs.”

Share option schemes typically enable employees to purchase shares at a pre-set price in the future. As well as being particularly popular amongst start-up or growth businesses, they are widely used amongst corporates and in the finance sector. Share options can form a major proportion of remuneration packages and play a crucial role in building wealth.

Boodle Hatfield says the figures suggest more can be done to make highly-remunerated industry sectors more appealing and inclusive for women.

Check Warner adds: “It’s paramount that the technology industry is inclusive to everyone, so that anyone has access to the wealth creation opportunities in this fast-growing sector.”

“Businesses also benefit from diversity as diverse teams foster innovation and creativity. Inclusivity allows for more perspectives to be brought into the decision-making process. Lack of diversity can lead to ‘groupthink’ which in turn can hamper growth and have a negative impact on the bottom line.”

“It’s likely that other underrepresented groups also receive less equity for the same work and it’s critical that we all do more to ensure that all founders and employees are compensated fairly for the work they do, regardless of background, race, gender, sexuality or any other factor.”


*HMRC, 2019-20 tax year, most recent year for which data is available. Data relates to Enterprise Management Incentives Scheme and Company Share Option Schemes where gender of recipient is identifiable.

This article was first published on 3rd May 2022. Extracts from this article can be found in The Times, HR Magazine, Sky News, Personnel Today, The i and Bloomberg.

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