Frances Ball 15 Mar 2019 12:33pm

FTSE 350 companies confronted over lack of board diversity

British companies with one or no women on their boards have been questioned over their progress

The Investment Association (IA) and the Hampton-Alexander Review have written to 69 companies in the FTSE 350 to express their concern about the lack of gender diversity at board level.

In the letter, they asks companies to outline what they plan to do to make progress in diversity. They also asks what plans will be made to meet the Hampton-Alexander review’s targets of 33% female boards by 2020.

Three of the 69 companies had no women on the board at all. The rest had just one, which Chris Cummings, chief executive of the Investment Association, called a “tokenistic step”.

The letter follows the IA’s announcement last month to it intended to award a “red-top” – its highest warning level – to these “one and done” companies .

“There is also compelling evidence that boards with greater gender balance outperform their less diverse peers”, he said. “These companies must up their game and explain clearly how they are planning to meet the Hampton-Alexander targets, or risk investor dissent at their AGM”.

Rachel Reeves MP, chairman of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee, also welcome the investors’ intervention..

“The low numbers of women in executive positions can only hinder progress,” she said. “The role of investors is important here too and they need to assert themselves to ensure that diversity is reflected more visibly at board level.”

Among the 69 companies the IA has targeted are wealth manager St James’s Place, retailer JD Sports and online gambling group 888 Holdings.