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30% Club evolves to champion racial diversity

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8 Mar 2022

After achieving some success on gender, campaign group is to focus on racial diversity in FTSE350 boardrooms. This move opens the debate on other issues to be addressed, finds Andrew Holt.

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After achieving some success on gender, campaign group is to focus on racial diversity in FTSE350 boardrooms. This move opens the debate on other issues to be addressed, finds Andrew Holt.

Diversity

The 30% Club, which campaigns for greater gender diversity in boardrooms, is to push for more racial representation at decision-making levels.

Its aim is to have at least one person of colour at board or executive committee level in each FTSE350 company by 2024. The campaign will continue to focus on the issue the group was established to promote with at least half of appointments going to women.  

Ann Cairns, global chair of the 30% Club, told portfolio institutional: “By 2020 we felt ready for broader targets in the UK and we discussed what to tackle next. 

“As a multi-racial society with 40% of our London population non-white, it was obvious that people of colour are underrepresented in the business world.

“We have had the Parker Review, which called for more people of colour on boards, so rather than create another target we decided to put our weight behind Parker,” she added. “But also, as the 30% Club we wanted to retain a gender lens on the issue and asked that 50% of those seats should be taken by women of colour.

“Once again, our UK members welcomed this. As did the CBI, whose Change the Race Ratio campaign we are proud to be a founder partner of.” 

Does this mean its work on the gender imbalance in boardrooms is done and dusted? “The 30% Club was set up at a time in the UK when we had around 12% women on boards in the FTSE100 and its aim was to create a tipping point of 30% plus.

“We have certainly achieved that in Britain and now we encourage companies to head for parity,” Cairns said. “Several years ago, we widened our brief to include women on executive committees and our CEOs welcomed this. But even FTSE350 companies are only around 20% today.

“The club expanded to many parts of the world and many countries have yet to achieve the 30% tipping point. We have continually widened our brief, and our work on gender is far from done,” she added.

And given the 30% Club is moving away from its original remit, why not address the lack of socio-economic/class representation if the group wants to embrace diversity and inclusion in a widest possible context?     

“We totally believe in an inclusive approach encompassing all aspects of diversity,” Cairns said. “It’s true that social mobility is a key area to address and we will shortly welcome the leader of a social mobility action group to our UK steering committee to inform our work on this issue going forward.”

In parallel, the group also runs race equity training to ensure its members, big and small, are equipped to take action with the companies they invest in.

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