Investors getting impatient with companies doing little on gender diversity

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The Investment Association and the Hampton-Alexander Review have written to 35 FTSE 350 companies with low or no female representation at senior leadership level or who failed to provide gender data to ask what steps they are taking to improve gender diversity.

The IA is the trade body representing UK investment managers who collectively own one third of the FTSE and hold the UK’s biggest listed companies to account. The Hampton-Alexander Review is pushing for greater representation of women on boards.

They wrote to 14 companies in the FTSE 100, including those who have all-male Executive Committees, such as BP and Smurfit Kappa Group, and companies whose combined Executive Committees and Direct Reports have low proportions of women, such as Persimmon and TUI. These have been asked to explain their poor gender balance and what steps they are taking to move towards the targets as set out in the Hampton-Alexander Review.

The Investment Association and the Hampton-Alexander Review have also written to 11 companies in the FTSE 250 who have all-male Boards, including Sports Direct and Stobart Group, and 10 companies who chose not to report their gender diversity data to the Hampton-Alexander Review last year, including The AA, J D Wetherspoon and Wizz Air.

The IA says investors wants  boards and leadership teams to urgently address gender diversity and that a number will vote against AGM resolutions on the grounds of gender representation.

Chris Cummings, Chief Executive of the Investment Association said: “The body of research is clear: firms with a diverse management team and pipeline make better decisions and drive innovation. The target of 33% for women in senior leadership positions by 2020 absolutely aligns with investors’ desire to see the companies they invest in recognising diversity as a critical business issue.

“The Hampton-Alexander recommendations have now been in place since November 2016. Investors are becoming restless and want companies to take action.”

Sir Philip Hampton, Chair of the Hampton-Alexander Review added: “The gap between those working hard to improve gender balance and those doing very little, has never been more obvious. All FTSE companies adrift from 33% women’s representation on their Boards and in leadership, need to rise to today’s challenge from the investment community and take swift action to address the lack of women in their top teams.”

In Parliament yesterday Fawcett Society chief executive Sam Smethers told MPs that all companies with more than 50 employees should be mandated to report on their pay gap, drawing in far more organisations than the current 250 employee bar. Smethers, alongside the 30% Club campaigning group and the Trades Union Congress, also called for the introduction of mandatory pay gap action plans in order to encourage change.

Meanwhile, it is reported that one in 10 employers that should have reported on their gender pay gap has yet to do so, a fortnight after the cut-off date. Although more companies have reported since the original April 4th deadline, 1,500 are still outstanding.

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