The Investment Association (IA) has written to one in 10 companies in the FTSE 350 – including BP – urging them to set out plans to appoint more senior female managers or face unrest at shareholder meetings.
IA and the Hampton-Alexander Review wrote to 14 FTSE 100 companies who they deemed had too few women in top positions on 30 June 2017 including BP, Reckitt Benckiser and Persimmon.
BP, Fresnillo, Mediclinic International, Smurfit Kappa, St James's Place and Provident Financial were FTSE 100 companies with all-male executive committees. Provident Financial has since fallen out of the FTSE 100. Fresnillo and Smurfit Kappa were also in the list of FTSE 100 companies with the lowest female representation on or reporting directly to the executive committee.
The company with the lowest executive female representation in the FTSE 100 was CRH with 9.3%. Of the bottom 10 companies, Reckitt Benckiser had the highest female representation but at 13.4% it was well short of the commission's target of 33% by 2020.
In the FTSE 250 there were 11 companies with all-male boards including Sports Direct and Stobart Group. WH Smith, JD Wetherspoon and Melrose were among 10 further FTSE 250 companies that failed to supply data to the Hampton-Alexander Review, which was set up by the government to encourage more women at the top of public companies.
IA, which represents fund managers owning a third of the FTSE 100, called on the companies to take swift action to diversify their senior ranks. The government appointed Philip Hampton, who chairs GlaxoSmithKline, and Helen Alexander, who chaired UBM before she died last year, to push for more female managers at large companies.
Chris Cummings, IA's chief executive, said companies that appeared reluctant to make progress towards greater female representation could face rebellions by big investors at annual general meetings.
Cummings said: “The Hampton-Alexander recommendations have now been in place since November 2016. Investors are becoming restless and want companies to take action.
“A number of key investors have told us that they will vote against AGM resolutions on the grounds of gender representation. With the AGM season now in full swing, companies who are falling short should take urgent steps to outline what they plan to do to increase diversity.”
The financial crisis pushed company leadership up the political agenda after overwhelmingly male boards and executive teams led banks to the edge of financial oblivion. Research suggests women in business are more wary of risk than men and that companies with more women at the top are more successful because they have a wider range of views and are often more in tune with their customers.
Hampton said: “It is disappointing to see a significant minority of companies still making slow or no progress. The gap between those working hard to improve gender balance and those doing very little has never been more obvious.”