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One less Dave and one less Willie: Departure of Tesco and IAG bosses raises issue of diversity at the top

Despite yet more FTSE 100 CEOs calling time in the board room, Britain's biggest companies continue to be dominated by men, with women heading up only six blue-chip firms

Tesco PLC - One less Dave and one less Willie: Departure of Tesco and IAG bosses raises issue of diversity at the top

Last year, there were more people called Dave than there were women heading up FTSE 100 companies, however, that figure is about to change with the departure of Tesco PLC (LON:TSCO) chief executive Dave Lewis this summer.

Also joining the latest batch of changes at the top of British business is Willie Walsh, the boss of British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (LON:IAG), who announced his departure on Thursday after 15 years at the helm.

READ: IAG boss Willie Walsh joins FTSE 100 exodus

However, both outgoing CEOs are due to be replaced by yet more men, Lewis by former Boots boss Ken Murphy and Walsh by Spaniard Luis Gallego, the head of IAG’s Iberia airline.

The changes have once again raised the issue of diversity across FTSE 100 boardrooms, with women currently occupying the top jobs of just six blue-chip firms.

More prominent examples include Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (LON:RBS) CEO Alison Rose,  GlaxoSmithKline PLC (LON:GSK) boss Emma Walmsley and the head of ITV PLC (LON:ITV), Carolyn McCall.

Ethnic minority representation also lacking

The issue of blue-chip board room representation also extends to ethnic minority background, with more FTSE 100 CEOs called Steve than those with Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) heritage.

Currently, there are only five ethnic minority CEOs -  Fresnillo Plc’s (LON:FRES) Octavio Alvídrez, Carnival PLC (LON:CCL) boss Arnold Donald, Laxman Narasimhan, chief of Dettol maker Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC (LON:RB.), NMC Health PLC’s (LON:NMC) Prasanth Manghat and Ivan Menezes, the boss of Guinness and Johnny Walker owner Diageo PLC (LON:DGE).

One glaring omission across the FTSE 100 is also the lack of any CEOs that are both female and of an ethnic minority background.

Changes in the future?

While representation of both non-male and non-white executives may be lacking among the top-tier company boards, some in the recruitment industry think the portrayal of diversity in the media is somewhat naïve.

“A lot of [CEO hires] are not about bringing a female into the equation, it is more about having someone available who has a specific set of skills”, says David Jackson, managing partner at headhunter StoneExecutive.

He adds that social demographics are not the main driving factor behind the dearth of non-male or non-white CEOs, but rather diversity at lower levels of businesses and industries.

“A company can only determine [who is available] through those that are applying…you could argue that it could be changed by empowering a diverse group of students to get involved in different fields. Saying that [a lack of diversity] is the fault of company policy is a little unfair.".

He adds that while some industries such as retail, media and airlines are transitioning into a more diverse workforce quite quickly, other, more industrial-focused areas such as construction may take longer unless a diverse range of talent can be attracted to those industries at the lower levels.

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