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Major firms told to put more women on boards or face investor backlash

BP, Sports Direct and the AA are among more than 30 businesses that have been urged to sort out their lack of female leaders or face an investor revolt.
The Investment Association (IA) has sent a letter to 35 businesses on behalf of its members warning their boards that investors are now "becoming restless" over their lack of progress and need to see action. 
It has targeted FTSE 100 giants such as BP and Smurfit Kappa Group, which have all-male executive committees, as well as businesses in the FTSE 250 with all-male boards such as Sports Direct and Stobart Group. 
The AA, JD Wetherspoon and Wizz Air were also among those targeted because last year they failed to report their gender diversity data to the Hampton-Alexander Review, a diversity study backed by the Government.
"A number of key investors have told us that they will vote against AGM resolutions on the grounds of gender representation," said IA chief Chris Cummings. "With the AGM season now in full swing, companies who are falling short should take urgent steps to outline what they plan to do to increase diversity." 
Legal & General, for example, has promised to vote against the re-appointment of chairs if women do not make up at least 25pc of the board. It voted against 37 board chairs last year as a result of poor diversity.
Major firms told to put more women on boards or face investor backlash

Sports Direct has been urged to sort out its all-male board by the Investment Association
The lack of women in senior roles across Britain has come into sharp focus in recent months after it emerged that 78pc of companies with more than 250 staff have a pay gap in favour of men. Budget airline Ryanair and Millwall FC were among the worst offenders, with a respective gap of 71.8pc and 80pc.  
The data came to light earlier this month after the Government introduced a law requiring British businesses to publish their wage gap figures between male and female workers. Theresa May wrote in The Telegraph that Britain's gender pay gap is a "burning injustice" that mars British society.  
Company gender pay gap searchable tool
The IA has 200 members that collectively manage more than ?6.9 trillion on behalf of clients. It wrote its latest letter alongside the Hampton-Alexander review, whose chair Sir Philip Hampton warned that the gap "between those working hard to improve gender balance and those doing very little has never been more obvious". 
The boss of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, will be among those giving evidence to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in a hearing on gender pay due to take place later today. 
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