FTSE 350 firms falling short of female board member targets

Progress on objective for corporate gender equality by 2020 is at snail’s pace – MP

Britain’s 350 biggest stock market-listed companies will have to appoint women to more than 40% of all their boardroom positions over the next two years to meet the government-backed target for corporate gender equality by 2020.

Figures released on Wednesday by the Hampton-Alexander review, a government initiative to tackle UK corporate gender inequality, show that FTSE 350 companies are still far short of the target to have 33%-female boardrooms and 10 firms still have all-male boards.

Women hold 29% of boardroom positions at FTSE 100 companies, an increase from 12.5% in 2011, and are on track to meet the 33% target by 2020.

However, progress has been slower in the wider FTSE 350, with women making up only 25.5% of all directors.

The review named and shamed 10 “dark ages” companies who have failed to appoint any women to the top table two years after the 33% target was set.

They are Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct, Stobart Group, Baillie Gifford Japan Trust, Daejan Holdings, Herald Investment Trust, IntegraFin Holdings, JP Morgan Japanese Investment Trust, On The Beach Group, TBC Bank and Ti Fluid Systems.

Rachel Reeves, a Labour MP and chair of the business, energy and industrial strategy committee, said: “The inglorious 10 companies who still have all-male boards need to drag themselves out of the dark ages and ensure they bring in a more diverse and valuable perspective to the running of their businesses rather than running a closed club of the old boys’ network.

“Many of our biggest companies still have a long way to go to meet the 2020 goals. Progress at the board table is at snail’s pace and far too few women are taking the helm as chief executives.”

Victoria Atkins, the minister for women, said there was no excuse for having an all-male board.

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Sir Philip Hampton, the chairman of GlaxoSmithKline and co-chair of the government’s corporate gender equality review with the late Dame Helen Alexander, said: “It is good to see progress of women on boards continuing, with the FTSE100 likely to hit the 33% target in 2020. However, nearly half of available board appointments in the run-up to 2020 now need to go to women if the FTSE 350 are to meet the target. Far too many companies still have no women – or only one woman – on their board.”

A Sports Direct spokesman said it was committed to meeting the gender gender diversity target. “We are currently interviewing a number of female candidates to join the board as non-executive directors and our next workers’ representative to the board will also be female,” he said.

Stobart Group said it has identified an “excellent female candidate” for the position of independent non-executive director but the appointment is on hold until after its annual meeting on 6 July.

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