24 Feb 2012

Investors call for board diversity

The 30% Club hosted an Investor Group seminar this morning to start the next stage of its campaign to increase diversity in boardrooms

The next stage of the group’s campaign will explore the practical steps investors need to take to effect change in line with the diversity guidelines in the UK Corporate Governance Code.

This morning’s seminar included leading investors, FTSE chairmen and prominent leaders. Four investors, Aberdeen Asset Management, BlackRock, Hermes Equity Ownership Services and the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, also joined the 30% Club Investor Group today, taking the assets represented to over £1.77trn.

Led by Emma Howard Boyd, sustainable investment and governance director at Jupiter Asset Management, the Investor Group was set up in November last year to encourage investors to consider the issues around board diversity.

The new members join founding investors including Aviva Investors, Co-operative Asset Management, F&C Investments, Jupiter Asset Management, Legal & General Investment Management, Newton Investment Management and RPMI Railpen Investments.

Roger Carr, chairman of Centrica and president of the CBI, said: “Over the past year we’ve seen encouraging progress – in 2011, 100 women were appointed to FTSE-100 and FTSE-250 boards, over half being new to the role of director. The rate of female appointments has more than doubled, with 27% of new appointments going to women – both for FTSE-100 and FTSE-250 roles.

“FTSE-100 boards are halfway towards the 30% ambition, with 15.2% female representation."

Three companies in the business group - Diageo, Burberry and Pearson - have already reached the 30% target.

Baroness Hogg, chairman of the Financial Reporting Council said: “The changes we made to the Code last year reflected the FRC’s view that gender diversity strengthens board effectiveness by reducing the risk of “groupthink”, making fuller use of the talent pool and keeping companies in touch with their customers.

"We urge companies to demonstrate progress in this important area as quickly as possible.”

The 30% Club initiative was founded by Helena Morrissey CBE, chief executive of Newton Investment Management, and is led by her and a group of senior businesswomen.

Helen Roxburgh