Julia irvine 17 Apr 2018 12:09pm

FTSE 350 named and shamed over few women in leadership

Investors have written to 14 FTSE 100 companies – including BP, Reckitt Benkiser Group and TUI – to demand why they continue to run all or almost all male executive committees and direct reports

The Investment Association, whose members collectively own one third of the FTSE and manage £6.9trn assets, and the Hampton-Alexander Review which is backed by government, want to know what steps they are taking to meet the target of 33% women in leadership by the end of 2020 set out in the Hampton- Alexander review (AHR).

The two bodies have also written to 11 companies in the FTSE 250 with all male boards, including Sports Direct and Stobart Group, and 10 companies which opted out of reporting their gender diversity data to the AHR last year. These last include The AA, JD Wetherspoon, Marston's, WH Smith and Wizz Air.

The companies have been warned that any company which appears to be dragging its feet over gender diversity will face a rough ride from shareholders.

“The Hampton-Alexander recommendations have now been in place since November 2016,” said Investment Association chief executive Chris Cummings. “Investors are becoming restless and want to see companies take action.

“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.”

According to government statistics, there are now no all-male FTSE 100 boards. There are currently 309 women on FTSE 100 boards, up from 12.5% in 2011 to 28.7%.

The percentage is lower among the FTSE 250, where the number of women on boards stands at 23.4% – with 20 of them in the role of chair.

Sir Philip Hampton, who chairs the Hampton- Alexander Review, recognised that most FTSE companies have worked hard to address the lack of women in senior leadership positions. However, he was “disappointed” that there was still a significant number of companies “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,” he said.

“All FTSE companies adrift from 33% women’s representation on their boards and in leadership, need to rise to today’s challenge from the investment community and take swift action to address the lack of women in their top teams.”

When the Hampton-Alexander Review was first established in 2016, it made a number of recommendations. As well as setting a target for FTSE 350 companies of a minimum of 33% women’s representation on boards by 2020, it suggested they also aim for a minimum of 33% women’s representation across their combined executive committee and direct reports to the executive committee by the same year.

Of all the FTSE 100, buildings material group CRH plc had the lowest percentage of women in its combined executive committee and direct reports – 9.3% – at end June 2017. This was followed by Ashtead Group (10%), Fresnillo (10.7%), Smurfitt Kappa Group (11.6%), Imperial Brands (12.2%), Antofagasta (12.3%), British American Tobacco (12.5%), Persimmon (12.8%), TUI (13.2%) and Reckitt Benkiser Group (13.4%).

As well as Sports Direct and Stobart Group, other FTSE 250 companies with all male boards were Daejan Holdings, TBC Bank Group, Vietnam Enterprise Investment, TI Fluid, Herald Investment Trust, PureCircle, Baille Gifford Japanese Trust, JP Morgan Japanese Investment Trust and On The Beach Group.