UK board directors told to mentor women and BAME employees

Published: 13 Jun 2018 By Attracta Mooney

Source: Financial Times, published on 12 April 2018

Executives at the UK’s largest listed companies have been told by the business minister to mentor women and ethnic minority employees to improve workplace diversity.

Andrew Griffiths wrote to the chief executive and chairs of FTSE 350 companies on Wednesday to urge them to tackle the lack of women and people from ethnic minorities at the top of corporate Britain.

Companies should also “critically examine” their recruitment processes to remove any biases and consider introducing anonymised hiring and diverse interview panels, he said.

He added that they should disclose what actions they were taking to create more diverse workforces. His letter came just a week after the deadline for companies to publish their gender pay gaps.

Mr Griffiths wrote: “[Gender-pay gap reporting] shows that we still have a long way to go to ensure that all individuals, whatever their background or characteristics, have similar opportunities to progress in the workplace and make the most of their potential.

“We want to ensure that everybody has the same opportunities to progress in the workplace and achieve their true potential.”

In recent years, several government-backed initiatives, including the Hampton-Alexander and Parker reviews, have examined how businesses can improve diversity — but the government has avoided introducing legal targets.

"We need to make sure the cultural and structure changes that are required happen much more quickly" - Andrew Griffiths

Mr Griffiths said he was keen to maintain a “voluntary business-led approach to diversity”, but in a warning shot to companies, he said he wanted to see concrete action.

“We need to make sure the cultural and structure changes that are required happen much more quickly,” he said.

He told bosses they must “take all the necessary steps” to enable their companies to meet the targets set by Hampton-Alexander and Parker reviews, including measures for women to account for a third of FTSE 350 board directors and executive committees by 2020.

According to February data from BoardEx, the research company, women make up less than a third of board members on 192 of FTSE 250 companies, while a further 68 FTSE 100 companies have yet to meet the 33 per cent target.

As well as political pressure, companies are facing increased demand to improve diversity from investors. Some 27 investors managing £10.5tn, including BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, and Japan’s GPIF, the biggest pension fund globally, have signed up to the 30% Club’s investor group to push for more women on boards in the UK.

Brenda Trenowden, global chair of the 30% Club and head of financial institutions for Europe at ANZ, the bank, said she backed Mr Griffith’s letter.

“It’s essential that companies maintain their focus and sharpen their efforts on diversity,” she added.

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