May 22, 2023

There are now (slightly) more women in startup chair positions

A new report by executive search service Erevena has found how diversity and salaries have changed at board level

Sadia Nowshin

2 min read

It can sometimes feel like the mantra for moving the needle on diversity in European tech is move slowly and keep things predominantly as they are. And startup boards are no different.

A new report from executive search service Erevena, which surveyed 426 chairs and non-executive directors across the UK and Europe in January and February of 2023, found that some aspects of diversity across startup boards has improved compared to 2021 figures — but the pace of progress is snail-like.

Here are five main takeaways from the 2023 report.

1. The number of boards slacking on gender diversity has crept down

A huge 47% of boards had no gender diversity back in 2019. And although that stat decreased by 13% in 2021 to 34%, 2023’s report saw the rate of improvement slow; 31% of startups in 2023 reported no women on their board, a 3% improvement in two years.


2. There are now (slightly) more women in chair positions

8% of chairs are now women, compared to 3% in 2021 and 2% in 2019. While men still take up the vast majority of chair positions, the rate of progress for gender diversity has improved —  progress saw a jump of 5% in the last two years, compared to a 1% improvement between 2019 and 2021.

2023 was also the first year to survey for board members who identified as non-binary/other, which made up 1% of chair positions.

3. Though there are more female chairs, more male chairs still earn the higher salary bands

When asked how much they are compensated for their role, a higher percentage of female chairs reported earning an annual salary of less than £50k compared to men. More than 50% of men reported earning more than £50k for their chair role, and no women reported earning more than £80k.

4. While gender diversity has crept forward, ethnic diversity has remained stagnant

Though progress might have been slow on gender diversity on startup boards, at least there has been some progress; the needle has barely moved, however, on ethnic diversity.

Just 10% of board members reported coming from ethnically diverse backgrounds, the same percentage reported in 2019 and 1% higher than 2021’s figure.

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5. The chance of being paid more than £80k post-IPO has plummeted

In 2021, 100% of chairs hired at post IPO stage companies reported earning more than £80k — in 2023, that dropped to just 57%. 

It wasn’t just post IPO chairs that saw fewer £80k+ payslips: the number of people reporting the salary at pre-seed and seed-stage startups also decreased.. While 2021 saw 12% of seed-stage chairs compensated at the top band, not a single chair at that stage reported that salary in 2023.

Sadia Nowshin

Sadia Nowshin is an editorial assistant at Sifted. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn