FTSE small companies still fail on board diversity | Women on the board

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Half of the 252 small businesses listed on the London Stock Exchange do not have female leaders such as CEOs and CFOs despite push for board diversity, research shows.

Nearly half of these small companies are also missing the goal of having one-third of their boards occupied by women, and three-quarters of their boards are all white.

Campaign group Women on Boards UK has analyzed the diversity of LSE-listed companies that are too small for the FTSE 350 All-Share Index of the largest London-listed companies. Its second annual report found that 50% of these small businesses have all-male management teams.

That’s down from 54% last year, but still “surprisingly high” compared to companies on the FTSE 350 (which includes the blue-chip FTSE 100) where just 4.6% have full management teams. male, the group said.

Only 16% of the chairs of the boards of the 252 smallest companies are women, and even fewer of the CEOs, just 7%, are women, which signals no change since 2021.

This is important because companies run by women have many more women on their management teams than those run by men. Female CEOs had an average of 55% women on their leadership teams, compared to 14% for male-led companies.

“These women don’t have a traditional view of what a leader looks like and are likely to be more inclusive and supportive,” said Fiona Hathorn, chief executive of Women on Boards.

“There remain a large number of companies that have yet to achieve even the most minimal levels of diverse representation, both at the executive and non-executive level. To these companies, I say, catch up – and fast.

Recruitment consultant Robert Walters, housing and social services provider Mears Group and agricultural company Carr’s Group have no female executives. Carr’s is also one of eight companies that have all-male boards, with no female non-executive directors.

Robert Walters said there were only two executive directors in total, both men, but noted that there was a female executive at the lower level.

Mears said: “While Mears recognizes that we currently have no women in our management team, we have two female non-executive directors, providing representation on the plc board. As a business, we are committed to taking action, through our UK charter and equity and inclusion approach, to ensure we attract and promote more women in leadership roles by 2025.”

The report shows that women have made small progress on boards over the past 12 months, with 34% of female directors at the 252 smallest companies, up from 31% in 2021.

Companies that stand out positively include fashion chain Ted Baker with a female chief executive, Rachel Osborne, and a female interim president, Helena Feltham; the Go-Ahead bus operator whose chairman, Clare Hollingsworth, and chief financial officer, Sarah Mussenden, are both women; and Metro Bank, where five of the 11 board positions are held by women.

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The analysis found that a quarter of boards of small listed companies have a colored director, up from 16% in 2021 – but 75% of boards are all white. Only 8% of leaders are from British ethnic minorities.

Hathorn said the European Union is “going to attack us” after announcing last week that companies with more than 250 employees would face mandatory quotas to ensure women have at least 40% of board seats. administration.

“The UK has made huge efforts to make progress through monitoring and review, but too many individual companies are still flying under this radar, particularly if they are unlisted or below the FTSE 350,” Hathorn said.

“We have long advocated for 40% women on boards to be a truly representative target and we are delighted to see the government-backed FTSE Women Leaders highlight this as a target for the FTSE 350 in their report. earlier this year.”

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