NEWS

Smaller FTSE firms still failing on boardroom diversity

Jun 12, 2022

Show caption Campaign group a href="https://www.womenonboards.net/en-gb/home"Women on Boards UK/a found that 50% of smaller FTSE firms have all-male leadership teams. Photograph: Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Women in the boardroom

Nearly half of the companies have under a third of board roles occupied by women, with three-quarters entirely white

Sun 12 Jun 2022 06.53 EDT

Half of the smaller 252 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange have no female executive leaders such as chief executives and chief financial officers despite the push for boardroom diversity, new research shows.

Nearly half of these smaller firms are also missing the target of having a third of their board roles occupied by women, and three-quarters of their boards are entirely white.

Campaign group Women on Boards UK analysed diversity at listed companies on the LSE which are too small for the FTSE 350 All-Share index of the largest companies traded in London. Its second annual report found that 50% of these smaller firms have all-male leadership teams.

That’s down from 54% last year but still “shockingly high” when compared with companies in the FTSE 350 (which includes the blue-chip FTSE 100) where only 4.6% have all-male executive leadership teams, the group said.

Only 16% of board chairs at the smaller 252 companies are women, and even fewer chief executives, just 7%, are female – signalling no change since 2021.

This matters because companies with female CEOs have significantly more women on their executive leadership teams than those run by men. Female CEOs had an average of 55% representation of women on their executive leadership teams, versus 14% for the companies with male CEOs.

“Those women don’t have a traditional view of what a leader looks like and are likely to be more inclusive and supportive,” said Fiona Hathorn, chief executive of Women on Boards.

“There remains a high number of firms yet to reach even the most minimal levels of diverse representation, at both executive and non-executive level. To these firms I say, catch up – and quickly.”

The recruitment consultant Robert Walters, the housing and social care provider Mears Group, and the farming business Carr’s Group have no female executives. Carr’s is also one of eight companies that have all-male boards, without any female non-executive directors.

Robert Walters said it only had two executive directors overall, both of whom are men, but noted that there is a female leader the next level down.

Mears said: “Whilst Mears acknowledges we currently have no women on our Executive team, we do have two women non-executive directors, ensuring representation on the plc board. As a business, we are committed to action, through our UK Charter and Fairness and Inclusion approach, to ensure we attract and promote more women into leadership positions by 2025.”

The report shows that women have made some small gains in the boardroom in the last 12 months, with 34% female board directors at the smaller 252 firms, up from 31% in 2021.

Companies that stand out in a positive way include the fashion chain Ted Baker with a female chief executive, Rachel Osborne, and a female interim chair, Helena Feltham; the bus operator Go-Ahead whose chair, Clare Hollingsworth, and chief financial officer, Sarah Mussenden, are both women; and Metro Bank, where five of 11 board roles are occupied by women.

The analysis found that a quarter of boards at the smaller listed firms have one director of colour, up from 16% in 2021 – but 75% of boards are entirely white. Just 8% of executive leaders are from UK ethnic minority backgrounds.

Hathorn said the European Union was “going to get a march on us” after announcing last week that companies with more than 250 employees will face mandatory quotas to ensure women have at least 40% of seats on corporate boards.

“The UK has made enormous efforts to achieve progress through monitoring and scrutiny, but too many individual firms still fly under that radar, particularly if they are not listed or below FTSE 350,” Hathorn said.

“We have long advocated for 40% women on boards being a truly representative target and we’re delighted to see the government-backed FTSE Women Leaders introduce this as a goal for the FTSE 350 in their report earlier this year.”

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