UK boards falling down in terms of ethnic diversity

London, 25 August 2016 – A poll out today from ICSA: The Governance Institute and recruitment specialist The Core Partnership finds that just 19% of UK boards are considered to be ethnically diverse with some 74% of the company secretaries polled considering their boards not to be ethnically diverse.  

‘The poll findings, particularly when contrasted with the May 2016 FT-ICSA Boardroom Bellwether which found that 34% of the FTSE 350 considered their boards to be ethnically diverse, suggest that UK boards as a whole have some way to go in terms of achieving greater ethnic diversity,’ says Peter Swabey, Policy and Research Director at ICSA: The Governance Institute. ‘This is a pity as diversity, whatever form that might take, can undoubtedly contribute to the success of a company in terms of bringing a balance of skills, background and ability to a board. Cultural differences can bring a wider analysis to boardroom issues, which is particularly useful in companies with international operations. Boards that are more closely aligned to their customers in terms of demographics are better able to understand what drives their customers and employees.’

Some 34.4% of respondents feel that their company is committed to improving ethnic diversity at senior level; 30% do not and 35.6% are not sure. When questioned as to what companies looking to improve top-level diversity could do, suggestions included the following: 

  • Recruit and train an ethnically-diverse middle management
  • Embed a diverse culture at all levels and invest in a talent programme and succession planning
  • Have flexible work/life policies
  • Mentoring
  • Widen the recruitment pool and search abroad.

‘Workforces tend to be more diverse than boards and this demonstrates a problem with the pipeline,’ says Swabey. ‘In much the same way that we are seeing females underrepresented at executive level, there would appear to be a similar problem with ethnic diversity. The nomination committee should give consideration to diversity and establish a formal recruitment policy concerning the diversity of board members with reference to the competencies required for the board, its business nature as well as its strategies. All groups of people should be encouraged to apply for roles, but selection ought to be based on finding the best person for the role rather than quotas or positive discrimination.’ 

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Notes to Editors:


  1. ICSA: The Governance Institute is the professional body for governance. We have members in all sectors and are required by our Royal Charter to lead ‘effective governance and efficient administration of commerce, industry and public affairs’. With 125 years’ experience, we work with regulators and policy makers to champion high standards of governance and provide qualifications, training and guidance.
  2. The Core Partnership is a niche market recruitment consultancy working with Company Secretaries and their teams to advise on and resource their specialist interim and permanent manpower needs. With relevant professional backgrounds spanning back to the 1980s, The Core Partnership has a wealth of knowledge of the development and dimensions of the role of the Company Secretary. The team provides market advice on relevant qualifications and experience, conducts salary and benchmarking exercises and works throughout the UK and overseas recruiting at all levels to this specific discipline. 
  3. More detail about the poll findings can be found at
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