FTSE 350 boards challenged over ‘one and done’ female diversity

The Investment Association (IA) and the Hampton-Alexander review have written to 69, or one in five, of the FTSE 350 companies, challenging them about the lack of gender diversity on their boards, with suggestions their approach is ‘tokenistic’

The letter was sent to dozens of companies with just one woman on their board. They include Dominos Pizza, Stobart Group, Rank Group and Greene King, as well as a large number of financial services companies, including St James Place, Alliance Trust, Witan Investment Trust, and other investment funds.

There were three companies who have no women on their boards at all: Daejan Holdings, Millennium & Copthorne Hotels, and TR Property Investment Trust.

The letter asks all the companies to outline what action they are taking to make progress and ensure they are meeting the Hampton-Alexander targets of 33% of women on their board and leadership team by 2020.

It follows the announcement in February that IVIS, the IA’s voter information service, will give a ‘red-top’, its highest warning level, to so-called ‘one and done’ companies who have just a single woman on their board.

Chris Cummings, the IA’s chief executive, said: ‘Investors have been consistently clear that they want to see greater diversity in the boardroom so it is totally unacceptable that one in five of the UK’s biggest companies are falling so far short.

‘Companies must do more than take the tokenistic step of appointing just one woman to their board and consider that job done.

‘There is also compelling evidence that boards with greater gender balance outperform their less diverse peers. These companies must up their game and explain clearly how they are planning to meet the Hampton-Alexander targets, or risk investor dissent at their AGM.’

Separately the Treasury has published new data for its women in finance charter, which is designed to improve the gender balance across the UK’s financial services sector by asking firms to commit to four industry actions to prepare their female talent for leadership positions.

The total number of businesses signed up now tops 330 with an additional 36 signatories, including Vitality, Skipton Building Society. Over 800,000 employees in the UK are now covered.

The second annual review of the charter shows that female representation in senior management at firms who have signed up to the charter is rising, with 86% of signatories having either increased or maintained the proportion of women in the top jobs.

Jayne Anne-Gadhia, the government’s women in finance champion, said: ‘The Treasury’s women in finance charter continues to play a leading role in improving the gender balance across the UK’s financial services sector.’

Women in Finance Charter is here.

Report by Pat Sweet

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