FTSE firms handed five-step plan for gender equality

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Sir Philip Hampton, the chair of pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline, and Dame Helen Alexander, the chair of events firm UBM, outlined on November 8 the next steps they believed needed to be taken to increase female representation on the boards of FTSE 350 companies.

The five recommendations put forward by the Hampton-Alexander Review include a request for voluntarily discloses of gender balances on executive committees and in the layer directly below in annual reports; for the UK Financial Reporting Council to also update the UK Corporate Governance Code to force that level of disclosure; and for the government to encourage companies to clarify the gender split within senior management level in greater detail.

An FRC spokeswoman told FN the regulator welcomed the findings and “stands ready” to revise its rules.

In addition, the Review also called for FTSE 350 companies to make “gender-balanced boards the new norm” and for their CEOs “take action” by aiming to have a minimum of 33% female representation on boards and executive committees by 2020.

It also said institutional investors should have a transparent process, and voting policy, for evaluating FTSE 350 companies’ progress towards gender balance and that recruitment firms should support clients in their efforts to increase the number of women in senior roles.

Hampton and Alexander said in a joint statement that the Review marked “the next stage in the journey” to a more diverse workforce. They said: “It is clear that the voluntary business-led framework to improve the number of women at the top of British business is working and it is time to extend the focus beyond the boardroom.”

Brenda Trenowden, the European head of financial institutions at ANZ Banking Group, and the global chair at gender diversity lobby group the 30% Club, was appointed to the six-person advisory board of the Hampton-Alexander Review in June 2016.

She said setting a target for female representation in the pipeline to board-level was “really important” but gathering data on gender splits at exco and below was “tricky”. With that in mind, she welcomed a move to push companies to report that information themselves and for government to foster more transparency in that respect.

She believed that “sunlight [was] the best disinfectant”. “When companies focus on the numbers they’re more likely to address the issue,” she said.

But Gwen Rhys, the founder and CEO of support network Women in the City, said: “Progress for women continues to inch forward at a snail’s pace and whilst the Review’s recommendations have great merit, if reporting were to become part of legislation this would drive the change that’s badly needed.”

The Hampton-Alexander Review builds on the momentum created by the government-backed gender diversity initiative led by Lord Davies of Abersoch for five years from 2011, which saw the numbers of women on FTSE 100 boards double to 26% over the period.

It also coincides with the appointment of Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the CEO of Virgin Money, as the UK’s first Women in Finance Champion. The position was created for Gadhia to formalise her work promoting the Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter.

Trenowden said those behind the Hampton-Alexander Review and the Women in Finance Charter “all work really closely together”. She said: “Our view is to all collaborate as best together as best we can.”

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