The Investment Association and the Hampton-Alexander Review have written to 69 of the FTSE 350 companies, including fashion retailer JD Sports, outlining concerns about the lack of gender diversity on its boards.
The letter, which has been sent to companies who have no women or just one woman on their board, asks companies to outline what action they are taking to make progress and ensure they are meeting the Hampton-Alexander targets of 33% of women on their board and leadership team by 2020.
The letter follows the announcement in February that IVIS, the Investment Association’s voter information service, will give a ‘red-top’, its highest warning level, to so-called ‘one and done’ companies who have just a single woman on their board.
Chris Cummings, CEO of the Investment Association, said: “Investors have been consistently clear that they want to see greater diversity in the boardroom so it is totally unacceptable that one in five of the UK’s biggest companies are falling so far short.
“There is also compelling evidence that boards with greater gender balance outperform their less diverse peers. These companies must up their game and explain clearly how they are planning to meet the Hampton-Alexander targets, or risk investor dissent at their AGM.”
Sir Philip Hampton, chair of the Hampton-Alexander Review, added: “Most companies have made great progress in gender diversity in their boardrooms and senior executive leadership. But there’s a surprising number of boards with just one woman, which looks more like tokenism than diversity. It also does not reflect the population of very talented women capable of making great contributions in boardrooms.”
A spokesperson from JD Sports told Retail Sector: “The board of JD Sports Fashion welcomes the Hampton-Alexander Review and is pleased to confirm its commitment to achieving better diversity at all levels in the group, including at board level.
“We have responded directly to the recent correspondence received from the chair of the Alexander-Hamilton Review and the Investment Association, providing further information on the board’s perspective on diversity and the impact this may have on the future composition of the group board.”
The spokesperson added: “We will continue to engage with the Alexander-Hamilton Review and look forward to providing periodic updates regarding positive gender diversity milestones as they are achieved.”