UK’s leading boards still not diverse enough

The diversity of the leadership of the UK’s top 100 companies has risen but this has largely been driven by increased gender diversity while ethnic diversity has plateaued according to a report by executive search firm Green Park.

This is Green Park’s fourth report analysing diversity within the UK’s top companies and the first time Green Park has ranked companies in the top100 according to the diversification of their leadership teams. Topping this ranking is InterContinental Hotels Group followed by Standard Chartered, Unilever, Randgold Resources and Diageo.

FTSE 100 diversity

Green Park diversity report: companies have more work to do

The report’s introduction also suggests that while there has been positive action to tackle diversity government action seems to have waned. The authors note that there were resources given to improve gender equality, for example the Hampton Alexander Review
and the research that drives it, but the equivalent review into ethnic diversity carried out by Sir John Parker has received less backing and support in respect of tackling the problems he identified.

One positive sign for the future the report found was that the individuals that make up the pipeline of talent that will become future company leaders are more ethnically diverse than ever. Green Park said that ethnic diversity in the leadership pipeline within FTSE 100 companies increased to 5%, the highest level for four years.

However currently six-in-10 (58%) of top 100 main boards have no ethnic minority presence, despite the  Parker Review recommending no board among those leading companies should be exclusively white by 2021. Gender diversity also still faces challenges with the report finding that gender diversity in leadership was now moving back in more industries than moving forward. There was a significant rise in female participation in the engineering sector; but eight other sectors saw reduced female participation at the top executive level, notably in the tech sector. The analysis also found that women have to be three times more educated than men to sit on a top 100 board.

To address the continuing challenges in achieving diverse company leadership teams the report recommends that major shareholders should insist that their nomination committees submit annual accounts of their efforts to recruit board members who are not white and male, including explanations of the reasons why they have been unable to increase the inherent and acquired diversity of their leadership. Boards, the authors suggest should also give renewed attention to the objective of diversity in succession planning and this responsibility
should sit with the chairman and not  be delegated to others.

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