FTSE 350 companies face ethnic diversity scrutiny by investors as female representation reaches earl

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FTSE 350 companies are set to face more pressure by investment managers to boost ethnic diversity at the top, while female representation has reached early targets set by the government.

The Investment Association (IA) has announced it will issue an ‘amber-top’ to firms that do not disclose either the ethnic diversity on their board or a credible action plan to achieve the Parker Review targets, which require to have at least one director from an ethnic minority background by 2021.

READ: Norwegian wealth fund pushes for more gender diversity on portfolio companies’ boards

In last year’s AGM season, 75% of FTSE 100 companies did not report the ethnic make-up of their boards.

“The UK’s boardrooms need to reflect the diversity of modern-day Britain,” said Andrew Ninian, a director at IA.

“Those [companies] who fail to do so this year will find themselves increasingly under investors’ spotlight.”

The IA is also seeking greater progress on gender diversity, so companies whose board comprise of 30% or less female directors will receive a ‘red-top’ – an increase on last year’s 20% threshold.

There were more positive news on this front on Wednesday, as the government-backed Hampton-Alexander review announced the FTSE 100 met the 33% target for women on boards at the beginning of 2020.

Women’s representation now stands at 36.2%, up from 27.7% in 2017. Back in 2015, Westminster set up the goal of all FTSE 350 boards having 33% female representation by 2020, which would bring 350 more women in top positions.

The recommendation came after FTSE 100 reached a milestone of 25% of board positions being filled by women set four years prior.

Lloyds Banking Group PLC (LON:LLOY) said on Wednesday it became the first blue-chip company to launch a ‘Race Action plan’ to increase Black representation in senior roles to align with the overall UK labour market.

Departing chief executive António Horta-Osório unveiled a new set of diversity initiatives for the bank, which includes a commitment to 50% women, 3% Black and 13% Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff in senior roles by 2025.

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