Daejan Holdings, a FTSE250 property group, won’t appoint women ‘just for the sake of it’

At last, a major company to applaud on the issue of gender diversity in the boardroom. A piece by James Hurley in today’s Times:

Britain’s sole large listed company with no women on its board said has that it is not inclined to appoint a female director “just for the sake of it”.

Daejan Holdings, a FTSE 250 property group, is the only remaining business among Britain’s 350 largest quoted companies to have resisted pressure from the government’s Hampton-Alexander review body to stamp out all-male boardrooms.

The company, which owns buildings worth £2.4 billion, said that the Orthodox Jewish beliefs of its controlling family should be considered. Daejan was founded by Osias Freshwater, who came to the UK as a refugee from Nazi Germany. The group is led by his sons Benzion, 71, and Solomon, 63.

A strict interpretation of Orthodox religious law forbids or restricts physical contact with a member of the opposite sex except for one’s spouse and certain family members.

Daejan said that it had received a series of letters from the Hampton- Alexander Review. Denise Wilson, 60, the body’s chief executive, said: “Companies that have been slow to act are looking increasingly out of touch.” The Mail on Sunday first reported the row.

Mark Jenner, 67, company secretary, said that the religion of the Freshwater family was a “factor” in its all-male board. “This is not a legal obligation,” he said. “We’re not digging our heels in, saying we don’t like women.”

Mr Jenner said that while the brothers were not willing to be within touching distance of female colleagues, they were open to sharing their boardroom with women. He said that they should not be told “how to run their business”. “Next time there is a vacancy we will appoint on merit, whether it’s a man or a woman,” he said.

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