Investor votes down appointments in firms that lack gender diversity

One of the UK’s biggest investors voted against the re-election of more than 100 chairs last year because the organisations involved had failed to improve boardroom gender diversity.

Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM) said it voted against the election of a record number of chairs in 2018 – up from 37 in 2017 and 16 in 2016.

Among the organisations it believed had failed to improve gender diversity in leadership teams were Barclays, Sports Direct and Ted Baker.

Last year it vowed to vote against the re-appointment of chairs in FTSE 350 organisations where female board representation was not at least 25%.

“Frankly, it’s disappointing that we continue to have to make our voices heard as investors by voting against so many chairs on diversity issues but we are not going to go away,” said Helena Morrissey, LGIM’s head of personal investing and founder of gender diversity campaign the 30% Club.

“LGIM will continue to be active on this issue until we see boards protecting companies from ‘groupthink’ by becoming more diverse.”

Last month UK investment manager representative body the Investment Association wrote to 69 FTSE 350 companies, urging them to have women in a third of their board-level roles by 2020. The organisations included well-known brands such as Greene King and JD Sports.

According to the 2018 Hampton-Alexander Review progress report, just a quarter of FTSE 350 companies had one woman on their boards.

The Investment Association is also looking to help narrow the gender pay gap in the asset management sector. It found just one in 10 asset management organisations it surveyed had a female CEO or chair, while just 38% of the asset management industry overall was female.

Chris Cummings, chief executive of the Investment Association, said: “The publication of gender pay gap figures is opening up important conversations in boardrooms around Britain about how we recruit, promote and retain a diverse talent pool. The bottom line is clear: firms with a diverse management team and pipeline make better decisions.”

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