Ethnic diversity in the FTSE 100 leadership pipeline is slowly improving but more than half of boards remain all-white

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Nearly six in 10 FTSE 100 boards still have no ethnic minority presence (Source: Getty)

The ethnic diversity of FTSE 100 firms' leadership pipeline has improved for the first time in four years, but is still not a fair representation of British society, according to research from recruitment firm Green Park.

Analysing the 100 most senior roles beneath the main board of FTSE 100 firms, Green Park noted that ethnic diversity in the pipeline has risen to five per cent, the highest level since the firm started monitoring the figures four years ago.

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But progress is slow-moving, and there has been an 18 per cent fall in the number of ethnic minorities holding positions at chair, chief executive and chief finance officer level in FTSE 100 companies.

There has been a slight improvement on last year's report when 62 firms had all-white boards, but nearly six in 10 main boards in the FTSE 100 still don't have an ethnic minority presence, Green Park said.

James Jarvis, corporate governance analyst at the Institute of Directors, said: “While it is encouraging to see that ethnic diversity has increased in the leadership pipeline, it is a worry that this does not appear to be translating into executive and board positions."

He added: "A board that is made up of a homogenous group of individuals will struggle to represent their customer base, workforce and supply chain. By drawing on a diversity of background, gender, ethnicity and indeed thought, a company is far better equipped for the world of business.”

The slow progress comes despite the fact Sir John Parker's government-backed review into diversity on boards said in November that Britain's biggest firms should have at least one non-white director by 2021 and the next 250 largest firms should aim to appoint one non-white board member by 2024.

Raj Tulsiani, Green Park's chief executive, said:

In a world where access to top talent from abroad may be increasingly limited, it would be foolish for major enterprises to continue to ignore talent from underrepresented groups.

Given the need for greater cultural empathy in a post-Brexit Britain being able to move forward sustainably will become an increasingly important element of brand trust in the eyes of the public, regulators and institutional investors.

Green Park said boards needed to give further attention to the objective of diversity in succession planning, and that responsibility should sit with the chairman and not be delegated.

As for those firms that are outperforming the rest when it came to diversity, Green Park found InterContinental Hotels was top of the ranks for gender and ethnic diversity. 

Top 10 FTSE firms for leadership diversity

Rank

Company

Sector

1

InterContinental Hotels Group

Leisure

2

Standard Chartered

Banking and finance

3

Unilever

Consumer goods

4

Randgold Resources

Natural resources

5

Diageo

Consumer goods

6

Old Mutual 

Banking and finance

7

Vodafone Group

Telecoms

8

Next 

Retailing

9

Informa 

Professional and support services

10

Royal Bank of Scotland Group 

Banking and finance

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Tags: FTSE 100