London’s biggest companies made progress towards better representation for ethnic minorities among their boards in 2020, as racial equality protests spread across the world.
A new survey shows that the number of FTSE 100 companies who had at least one director for an ethnic minority group on their board grew from 54 to 81.
It marks rapid progress at the top level of the business world between January 2020 and March 2021, however still leaves 16 companies who have no ethnic minority representation on their boards.
“Corporate Britain, in my view, is becoming more comfortable with boardroom diversity,” said Sir John Parker, whose review is responsible for gathering the data.
“I believe too, that the majority of FTSE board leaders want British companies to be seen, not only as the best governed in the world, but also comprising of society’s best diverse talents.”
However, he also highlighted the distance yet to go for the business community, as his report said that major employers such as BAE Systems, the owner of British Airways, and JD Sports reported not having any directors from ethnic minorities.
Next, JustEat Takeaway.com and Ashtead did not respond to requests to submit their data.
“We would hope the remaining companies in the FTSE 100, who still have time to meet the target, will ensure they follow this encouraging lead and align with the business case that underpins the review,” Sir John said.
Last summer, protests spread across the world at the killing by police in the United States of George Floyd, an unarmed black man.
It is unclear if the protests directly influenced companies to appoint new directors, especially as directors often sit for terms lasting for nearly a decade, and seats need to be vacated before a new board member can be appointed.
Nevertheless, progress towards the target of having at least one member of an ethnic minority on each board progressed much faster in 2020 than in 2019.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The progress made in the past year to increase ethnic diversity on FTSE boards is very promising, particularly given the difficult circumstances businesses have been facing.
“FTSE companies are seeing the benefits of diverse leadership teams first-hand as we build back better from the pandemic. We hope more companies harness this momentum to go further and faster to ensure our boardrooms are fully representative of British society.”