Green Park calls out lack of diversity in FTSE leadership

Green Park calls out lack of diversity in FTSE leadership

Green Park has accused businesses and the government of reneging on pledges to increase ethnic diversity at leadership level after it found there are no black CEOs, CFOs or Chairs in the FTSE 100. Only 3.4% of leaders in these roles are from minority backgrounds, a decrease from the 4.2% reported by the Parker Review update in February 2020.

The data resonates with research carried out by Market Tracker for its recently published Ethnicity in Corporate Governance Reporting trend report, which examines the current recommendations and guidelines for public companies in relation to ethnic diversity reporting in the UK, focusing on how these have been interpreted, implemented, and reported on by FTSE 100 constituents. The report highlighted that while the Parker Review target to have at least one ethnic minority director on the board was referred to in 54% of FTSE 100 annual reports, only 35% of annual reports clearly stated they had met this target. However, even where companies had stated they met the Parker Review target, only 5% of companies provided specific data on ethnic origin, with most referring to generic terms such as BAME. Martin Webster, Partner at Pinsent Masons, notes in the report that ‘It is increasingly recognised that general terms such as ‘BAME’ and ‘of colour’ are at risk of hiding chronic underrepresentation in the UK of minorities such as black Caribbean and Bangladeshi. There may be no quick fixes but outreach at an earlier stage to schools and colleges, mentoring and enlightened recruitment practices can work long term to develop the talent that is there and is currently overlooked.

Green Park also found that the proportion of ethnic minority candidates that are positioned to likely progress into executive leadership roles has fallen from 1.4% to 0.9%. The Market Tracker report found that commitment to using search firms to ensure diverse candidate recruitment and ensuring diverse succession planning were the most common ethnicity objectives cited in FTSE 100 annual reports. However, Richard Preston, Managing Associate at Addleshaw Goddard, commented that ‘Investors will be looking for more than a headline commitment to improving diversity in 2021. Accordingly, a listed company’s priority should be to report on clear targets for both board and senior management, to demonstrate how the board evaluation process and diversity considerations have informed succession planning, and to comment on key actions taken and progress made in becoming a more inclusive, sustainable and socially responsible business.’

The view was reflected by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) in its Review of Corporate Governance, published in November 2020. In its report, the FRC highlighted the fact that ‘many companies stated the importance of diversity at board level and in the succession pipeline but offered little explanation to set out what they are doing to deliver that.’ It stated that it expected to see ‘increased attention and better reporting of succession planning, diversity and board evaluation,’ and called for ‘improved cohesion between diversity commitments, board evaluations and succession plans.’

The Green Park statistics have been released ahead of the Green Park Business Leaders Index 2021, which looks at the ethnocultural and gender diversity of FTSE leadership, and to coincide with Race Equality Week, a UK-wide initiative between the 1st and 7th of February 2021, which encourages businesses to take part by visibly supporting racial equality, facilitating conversation and committing to action. Commenting on the findings, the Chair of Green Park, Trevor Phillips, said: ‘Corporate leaders need to stop telling us how much they care and do something to show us that black lives really do matter.’

Sources: Britain’s top firms failing black leaders | Green Park’s annual business leaders index records no black chairs, CEOs or CFOs at FTSE 100 companies Market Tracker Trend Report: Ethnicity in Corporate Governance Reporting

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