Sir John Parker has called on FTSE 100 companies to commit to plans to appoint at least one ethnic minority board member, whose diversity review on boards of directors ends in December.
Parker, who sits on the boards of Pennon Group, Laing O’Rourke and Carnival Corporation, has been appointed by the British government to oversee the audit of British boards to ensure that each has at least one director for ethnic minorities.
Its five-year review ends at the end of 2021 for FTSE 100 companies, although FTSE 250 companies have three more years to meet the target.
Parker told the Financial Times he would be “disappointed if we’re not close to getting that vast majority” by the time he released his final report early next year.
He added that this progress was made despite the pandemic, which he said “undoubtedly disrupted employment plans”.
But he said that he was not satisfied with the progress made by British companies, despite significant efforts to better reflect the rebalance of management boards on society.
“I would hope that all companies with FTSE 100 will have very clear plans and that they will really take measures regarding them,” he said. “I am optimistic because I think there is a significant impetus behind it. Without a doubt, the Black Lives Matter accelerated the momentum. But I’m proud of the fact that the UK started early compared to the US. “
The last update of the survey in March 2021 showed that the number of FTSE 100 companies with ethnic minority representatives on their boards increased to 81, compared to 52 in January 2020.
The survey found that 124 of the 998 board positions in the companies that responded held ethnic minority directors. About a third were British, while a tenth sat on two or more FTSE committees.
However, research has shown that progress remains slower in key board functions, with only five FTSE 100 executive directors and two presidents coming from ethnic minorities.
Parker said the next goal would be to improve the representation of minorities in executive roles and committees, “building the executive pipeline within the company – not just under the board.”
He added: “When you place a flag in a meeting room, it’s a huge signal for the whole organization.”
Parker said changes to the meeting room take time, given the need for seats to become vacant and the time needed to process applications. But he said CEO hunters are now better at offering a more diverse range of candidates to boards.
“I think the challenge is why they are gone [directors from ethnic minority backgrounds] is that we should have started earlier. ”