Blogs 12th December 2019 3 minutes read

FTSE 100 retail companies still failing to increase leadership diversity but US retailers are leading the way.

Green Park’s latest research has highlighted the ongoing failure of the UK’s biggest businesses to recognise the need for diverse talent at the top levels with the total number of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) Board members virtually flatlining over the past year. 

Across the whole FTSE 100, there are only ten ethnic minority Chairs, Chief Executive and Chief Financial Officers and forty-seven companies have no BAME leaders on their boards and executive committees at all. At this rate of change it will take until 2039 before all FTSE 100 Boards and Senior Leadership Teams have ethnic minority representation; a far cry from the Government backed target set out by Sir John Parker to have no all-white boards by 2021.

While far off meeting proportional representation of the UK population (13%), retailers are bucking the trend of the overall findings at Board and Executive level, rising marginally to 5% from 3.1% in 2018, while the overall FTSE 100 has declined. However, with the leadership pipeline stagnating at 10.7% BAME in 2019 (10.6% in 2018), retailers would be right to be concerned about the prospects for future continuous improvement. 

The Green Park Leadership 10,000 does show an overall improvement in gender balance throughout the FTSE 100 at Board level, with a surge of female Non -Executive Directors doubling the representation over six years.  However, these increases are mainly in white rather than ethnic minority women, whose representation at this level has dropped over the past year.

The findings support those of the Hampton-Alexander Review that suggest a reluctance to put women at the heart of company decision making, with FTSE 100 Boards on track to meet the 33% female target by 2020, but Executive Committees a few years off. Additionally, since 2018, female progress at the Top 100 leadership pipeline level has stalled at under 30%. This calls into question the likelihood of one in every two FTSE 100 Executive Director appointments over the next year being female - the requirement necessary for the Hampton-Alexander gender equality targets to be met in the 2020 timeframe.

The retail sector is in a period of unprecedented transformation – where omnichannel growth opens the customer experience to anyone, anywhere, and migration into cities is likely to make Retail one of the biggest provider of jobs. Without visible and tangible diversity at senior Executive levels, we will see greater employee attrition, an inability to attract and engage minority ethnic candidates, erosion of the customer base and difficulty succeeding in new markets.

Forward-thinking corporations are realising that they need to do more than talk about change and are putting resources behind - and giving authority to - a Diversity and Inclusion leader, usually in the shape of a C-Suite executive. In the USA, almost half (47%) of S&P Index companies have a Chief Diversity Officer, with two thirds of these roles filled within the last three years – for example at businesses such as General Motors, Walt Disney, Time Warner, Mastercard, Bank of America, Coca Cola and Walmart. Aside from the obvious moral motivations, these companies recognise the genuine business imperative, which is now a C-suite level issue.

The UK’s population is due to increase by three million in the next 10 years, with net international migration expected to account for 73% of that growth, according to the ONS. The UK population is 51% female. As for the future leaders, today, the young are far more diverse than the population as a whole – the school population in the UK is close to 25% BAME.

If the FTSE companies are to represent the true modern face of the UK, and their customer, there’s a need for drastic change. The talent is there but the way institutions are rushing to cut and paste attraction and retention solutions with no clear data nor market insight attract is analogue thinking in a digital world.

Download the full Green Park Leadership 10,000 at

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