AN opportunity to correct the gender imbalance at the top of FTSE 100 firms will soon arise as company bosses approach retirement age, according to the director of retirement specialists Responsible Life.

The number of FTSE 100 company bosses nearing retirement has doubled in the past 20 years, from 8.8% in 1998 to 18.6% in 2018, new Responsible Life research shows.

Steve Wilkie, managing director of Responsible Life, believes it could soon be time to speed up the “glacial” rate of change on gender inequality.

He said: “There could be a high turnover at the top in a few years as those same older and experienced bosses start looking towards their retirements.

“When they do go, it wouldn’t be a bad thing to see their jobs pass to talented women to correct the gender imbalance. The rate of progress in this area over the past 20 years can, at best, be said to be glacial.

“When Marjorie Scardino joined Pearson in 1997, she was the first female chief exec at a FTSE 100 company. Barely any improvement has been seen since then and there remain just six women in the top job in 2018.”

The analysis also found that out of 19 chief executives in the FTSE 100 aged 60 and above, 16 of them were hired after the 2008 global financial crash.

Firms have struggled to maintain profit margins since the crash.

Wilkie added: “Since the financial crash, the research shows companies have been taking stock and hiring those with more battle scars in greater numbers.

“Experience and, with it, a nose for how to steer our biggest companies through choppy waters, is prized now more than ever.

“Age alone doesn’t automatically qualify a chief executive to be a better leader but boards clearly value these industry titans’ experience in tough times.”