One in five FTSE 350 firms contacted over lack of women in senior roles

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The Investment Association has sent letters to 63 FTSE 350 companies about the lack of gender diversity on their boards and executive committees.

The letter asks the businesses to detail any action they are taking to improve the gender balance within their leadership teams and ensure they meet targets set out in the Hampton-Alexander Review.

This, published last November, recommended that FTSE 350 boards were 33% female by the end of 2020, and firms should aim for 33% representation across leadership roles including positions on executive committees and direct reports to the executive committee.

Thirteen companies received a letter encouraging robust action to correct the imbalance in their top teams for a second year running and for the first time, companies with all-male executive committees were contacted. There are 35 all-male executive committees in the FTSE 250.

Some 24 FTSE 250 firms were contacted, with 24 only having one woman on their board. Four FTSE 100 were written to about the lack of progress on women being appointed to their senior teams.

There are 24 so-called “one and done” boards in the FTSE 250, where there is only one woman on the board.

The Investment Association will, via its Institutional Voting Information Service, be issuing “red top” warnings to companies with just one woman or fewer on their board and this year firms with 20% or less gender diversity on their boards will also get a red top.

Review chair Sir Philip Hampton said it was time for companies to act that that expectations from the government and investors had been clearly laid out. He added: “The vast majority of companies understand the business benefits, have taken robust action in response and been working hard to improve the representation of women in leadership for many years.

“Leaders of FTSE 350 companies that are still adrift of the 33% minimum target, need to rise to today’s challenge from the investment community and take swift action now to address the lack of women on the board and in their leadership teams.”

Chris Cummings, chief executive of the Investment Association, said: “Diversity results in better decision-making and plays an essential role in a company’s long-term success. Investment managers have been clear that as a minimum they want to see companies meet this target for gender diversity, and those which fail to do so risk facing dissent in the AGM season.”

According to the Investment Association, investment managers would maintain pressure on companies during the 2020 AGM season to improve their gender diversity.

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