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One in five city firms given warning letter over gender imbalance of bosses



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Top FTSE index firms have been singled out for progressing too slowly

Saturday, 29th February 2020, 12:51 pm

A government-backed review is monitoring the gender diversity of top firms (Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

A fifth of top British city firms have been warned to improve the gender balance in their highest ranks.

The Hampton-Alexander Review, commissioned by the Government, has written to 63 firms asking that they improve diversity.

The review, set up in 2016 by former RBS chair Sir Philip Hampton and the late CBI president Dame Helen Alexander, is aiming for a third of women in FTSE board and leadership positions by the end of the year.

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It tracks the progress of the 350 companies that form the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 stock indexes.

All-male FTSE 100 boards

Some FTSE 100 companies still have all-male boards (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)

Of those singled out as lacking, including Stagecoach group and Ladbrokes owner GVC, 35 FTSE 350 firms have all-male executive committees and 24 FTSE 250 companies have one woman on their board.

A further four FTSE 250 companies failed to meet both targets – they had an all-male executive committee and only one woman on the board.

FTSE 100 firms Ashtead Group Plc; Fresnillo Plc; Melrose Industries Plc; and Spirax-Sarco Engineering Plc all had all-male boards, the Investment Association (IA), which manages £8tn in pension funds, working with the review found.

However, others have made progress, with women holding one in three board roles at FTSE 100 firms.

Progress ‘too slow’

IA chief executive Chris Cummings said: “Diversity results in better decision-making and plays an essential role in a company’s long-term success.

Top UK firms have been urged to move quicker on gender diversity (Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

“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.”

Denise Wilson, the Hampton-Alexander review’s chief executive, said: “Despite moving in the right direction, too many companies are not making progress quickly enough.

“If every FTSE 350 company achieved at least 33 per cent women’s representation on their board and in senior leadership by the end of 2020, this would be a major milestone.

Shareholders demand action

“Increasing the representation of women in leadership and ensuring diversity in the widest sense, is a fundamental foundation to building a truly inclusive culture – where everyone can thrive.”

Business minister Martin Callanan said: “It is not just Government calling for greater diversity at the top of our FTSE 350 firms, shareholders are taking action too.

“The message is clear: those businesses that fail to take diversity seriously risk losing the confidence of their investors.”