Over 30 FTSE firms warned of investor revolt threat over low female representation in leadership positions

Rebecca Smith
Some firms have been criticised for all-male boards
Some firms have been criticised for all-male boards (Source: Getty)

A number of FTSE 350 companies could face investor revolts over low female representation within leadership roles, the investment managers' trade body said today.

It warned that investors were "becoming restless" over the lack of progress being made.

The Investment Association, which represents investment managers collectively owning one third of the FTSE, and the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review have written to 35 firms including BP, Smurfit Kappa and Persimmon.

They have been asked to explain their poor gender balance, and what steps they are taking to move towards the targets set out in the Hampton-Alexander Review, which looked at how to increase the number of women in senior positions in FTSE 350 firms.

Read more: These companies have some of the widest gender pay gaps in the UK

Chris Cummings, chief executive of the Investment Association said investors were "becoming restless and want companies to take action".

He 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 per cent 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."

He added:

A number of key investors have told us that they will vote against AGM resolutions on the grounds of gender representation. With the AGM season now in full swing, companies who are falling short should take urgent steps to outline what they plan to do to increase diversity.

Some 14 companies in the FTSE 100 have been singled out, including those which have all-male executive committees, including BP and Smurfit Kappa, and those with combined executive committees and direct reports that have low proportions of women, like Persimmon and Tui.

Another 11 firms in the FTSE 250 have been written to that have all-male boards, including Sports Direct and Stobart Group, along with 10 companies that chose not to report their gender diversity data to the Hampton-Alexander review last year, including Wizz Air and JD Wetherspoon.

Sir Philip Hampton, chair of the Hampton-Alexander Review said:

Whilst the majority of FTSE companies are taking great strides to address the lack of women on boards and in their leadership teams, it is disappointing to see a significant minority of companies still making slow or no progress. The gap between those working hard to improve gender balance and those doing very little, has never been more obvious

Read more: 1,500 businesses miss deadline on gender pay gap reporting

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