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Four companies in the FTSE 350 still have no women on their boards, according to a government-backed review of female representation in senior corporate positions and many have shown only a token effort with just one woman in their top management tier. 

With the 2020 deadline looming for women to hold at least a third of board positions, the Hampton-Alexander review published on Monday showed that while there has been a marked improvement across the listed sector since the project’s launch in 2016, some companies are still dragging their heels. 

FTSE 100 companies are on track to reach the target, with female board representation now at more than 32 per cent, but those in the mid-cap FTSE 250 are trailing, with 27.5 per cent of board positions held by women, up from 24.9 per cent in November last year.

The four all-male boards are Ferrexpo, the commodity trading and mining group, Northern Ireland’s Kainos Group and two property companies — Daejan Holdings and TR Property Investments. This is only one less than at the last review update in November 2018. 

Close to 50 other companies have only one women on the board, which has sparked concerns that these groups think that a so-called “one and done” approach is acceptable. 

Philip Hampton, chair of the review, said the FTSE 250 was working hard to catch up “but still too many boards have only one woman and remarkably today there are four all-male boards in the FTSE 250”.

Denise Wilson, chief executive of the Hampton-Alexander review, said that company engagement had improved since the start of the year. Gender diversity in senior management positions has increasingly become a focus for investors. 

Large fund managers such as Legal & General Investment Management and Aviva Investors have said they would vote against companies not doing enough to promote women into senior executive and board positions.

“We are pleased with progress in the FTSE 100 and with a bit of luck will hit the target by the end of the year,” said Ms Wilson. “Most of the responses to our letters have been very positive but there are a few who are still refusing to engage.”

The Investment Association and the Hampton-Alexander review wrote to 69 companies in the FTSE 350 and since then 20 companies have appointed women to their boards, but the groups are concerned that there were 14 companies with one woman or less on their boards who did not respond to the letter, including BCA Marketplace, Rank Group and Riverstone Energy.

Chris Cummings, chief executive of the Investment Association, said: “It is especially disappointing that 14 companies are still falling so far short of shareholder expectations by having just a single woman on their board. 

“Adopting this ‘one and done’ attitude is not good enough, and investors expect companies to up their game and explain clearly how they will set this right going forward.” 

Ferrexpo had one women on its board until April. Ferrexpo said that it was looking to replace all vacant board positions. 

A spokesperson for Kainos said it was recruiting for additional non-executive board representation, which would provide “the opportunity to create a diverse list of potential candidates”.

“Kainos is committed to being an inclusive employer, especially in offering technology careers for women, who continue to be under-represented in the wider industry,” he added. “At Kainos we recognise that this includes representation at the highest levels within the company.”

Letter in response to this article:

Women must be leading every day of the year / From Sam Smith, Chief Executive, finnCap Group, London, UK

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