Britain’s most successful companies tend to have a large proportion of women in senior management roles but the UK lags behind the US and Australia on diversity at the top, new research suggests.

Between 2011 and 2015, the most gender diverse quarter of companies were 20pc more likely than the least diverse to have above average financial performance, a report by management consultants McKinsey found.

Dame Vivian Hunt, who runs McKinsey’s UK business, said: “The correlation between diversity and financial performance is clear across different sectors and geographies: more diverse teams equals significant financial outperformance.”

The proportion of women on FTSE boards has soared since 2011 amid government and shareholder pressure to boost diversity at the top. But while women now make up around a third of non-executive directors, their representation among senior management teams is much lower.

The research showed UK firms are well above the global average with around 15pc of executive roles held by women, but they drag behind their rivals in the US, on 19pc, and Australia on 21pc. Even with the promotion of GKN’s Anne Stevens last week, just seven FTSE 100 companies currently have women chief executives.

From April, all UK companies with at least 250 staff will be forced to publish the gap between what they pay men and women in an effort to encourage firms to level the playing field.

Lady Barbara Judge, the first female chairman of the Institute of Directors, told The Daily Telegraph last week: “The main cause of the [pay] gap is the fact fewer women progress up the work ladder than men. Much more must be done to ensure more women reach the executive level.”