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Dearth of women on investment trust boards revealed

Dearth of women on investment trust boards revealed

The lack of female representation on the boards of UK-listed investment trusts has been revealed.

Research compiled by Canaccord Genuity showed 22 per cent of investment trust directors are women.

While this number has increased over the past two years, it remains just below the average for companies listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange, which has 25.4 per cent of board members of FTSE 350 companies being female.

More startlingly, there are 69 all male boards of investment trusts, compared with eight for companies in the FTSE 350.

Alan Brierley said, director of the investment trust team at Canaccord, said "There has been a significant increase in the number of female directors since our first review in 2012.

"In this report, we have found that women now represent 22.3 per cent of all investment company directorships versus 10.2 per cent six years ago.

"There is a marked difference between equity and alternative investment companies. Women represent 24.5 per cent of equity fund directorships but just 17.5 per cent of alternatives."

The data is contained in the 'Skin in the game”'report compiled annually by Mr Brierley to track trends in the investment trust industry.

The largest investment trust in the UK market, and the only one to feature in the FTSE 100 index, is the £7bn Scottish Mortgage investment trust, which is chaired by Fiona McBain.

Woodford Patient Capital, which is run by Neil Woodford, has a gender balanced board, with three male and three female directors, and is chaired by Susan Searle, whose background is as a technology entrepreneur.

In the open-ended fund universe, Richard Buxton, chief executive of Old Mutual Global Investors, said when the company splits from its parent business later this year under his leadership, the executive committee running the business will have a majority of female directors.

He said that if more women are on the boards of large companies, a “less macho” culture develops and better decisions are taken.

Mr Buxton specifically cited Royal Bank of Scotland, which collapsed during the global financial crisis under the management of Fred Goodwin, as an example of a business where the lack of female representation at the top tier of management created a culture which was detrimental to shareholders.

Annabel Brodie-Smith, communications director at trade body the Association of Investment Companies (AIC), said: "The AIC supports greater diversity on investment company boards and are running a number of initiatives to help.

"Our corporate governance code recommends that the evaluation of the board should consider the balance of skills, experience, independence, and knowledge of the board and its diversity should include gender.

"We also recommend that the annual report should include a description of the board's policy on diversity, including gender, any measurable objectives that it has set for implementing the policy, and progress on achieving the objectives."

david.thorpe@ft.com