Female representation on company boards is not an important factor for more than three-quarters of investors, despite ongoing campaigns promoting gender diversity in asset management.
Only 23 per cent of institutional decision-makers place importance on gender diversity, according to research from Hermes Investment Management.
Campaigns have attempted to improve awareness, but the data continues to show an imbalance. The Women on Boards section of the Davies Review Annual Report shows that the number of women holding executive level positions has increased to just 8.6 per cent from 5.5 per cent five years ago.
The Association of Investment Companies (AIC) has encouraged companies to consider the balance of skills, experience, independence and knowledge of their boards, as well as diversity, including gender. The body has recommended that annual reports should include a description of the board’s policy on diversity and any measurable objectives that it has set for implementing the policy, and progress on achieving these objectives.
Annabel Brodie-Smith, communications director at the AIC, said, “Boards do want more gender diversity. It is on the agenda more than ever before, so we hope the pace of change going forward will be greater.”
Some asset managers are attempting to promote female representation. Columbia Threadneedle Investments includes data on gender diversity in the key performance indicators listed in its corporate responsibility report. The company said the move was intended in response to the lack of diversity among European asset managers, and said that disclosure of such information is the first step towards improvement.
The number of women on the board at Columbia Threadneedle has increased from 13 per cent in December 2013 to 22 per cent in June 2015. Further details are in Table.
If transparency is the first step towards promoting diversity in asset management, then recruitment should follow. Some firms have introduced guidelines to make sure there is a mix of men and women on candidate lists, and that female interviewers are on panels.