A piece by Gurpreet Narwan in today’s Times:
Most directors sit on boards with only white members and many believe that their companies will struggle to meet the government’s commitment to ending all-white boards within six years.
Britain’s biggest public companies should have at least one non-white director within three years, according to the Parker Review, a government-backed report, which says that corporate decision-making will improve if boards are more diverse.
To hit this target companies still have “considerable work to do”, research by Ridgeway Partners, an executive headhunter, found. Its survey of FTSE 350 directors found that 64 per cent are on all-white boards and 79 per cent of those say that their company is not on track to recruit a non-white board member by the Parker Review’s deadline, which is 2021 for FTSE 100 companies and 2024 for each FTSE 250 board.
Companies are making progress with increasing the number of women on boards. More than two thirds of FTSE 350 board members said that their employers were on track to meet a government objective for 33 per cent of board members to be women by 2020. Almost three quarters of FTSE 100 board members felt they were on track.
Louise Angel, of Ridgeway Partners, said that achieving greater ethnic diversity among board members was “still a relatively new agenda topic for a lot of companies” but predicted “progress over the next few years, in the same way that we have seen a big improvement in gender diversity since 2011”.
Of those surveyed, half said that they would like more ethnic diversity on boards, while 43 per cent said they would welcome more gender diversity. Only 18 per cent listed boardroom diversity as one of their most important considerations.
The report also found that 26 per cent thought their board’s level of engagement with community stakeholders was “insufficient”. Customer engagement was also described as insufficient by 20 per cent of respondents.
Ms Angel said that community engagement needed improving but that in recent years boardrooms had “consistently adapted and evolved to absorb new responsibilities”.
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