GlaxoSmithKline boss Sir Philip Hampton has reached out to MPs to highlight the lack of women on executive boards in retail, and warn that there will always be Mike Ashleys and Sir Philip Greens.
Hampton addressed the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee by saying that although new the UK’s corporate governance strategy is widely admired, it is important for independent directors to be able to control rouge executives.
“In overall terms the UK structure for corporate governance is actually pretty good – it is not universally, but we always will have the Sports Directs or the Philip Greens,” said Hampton, who last year published a report on corporate governance and gender diversity.
“I don’t think there are any structures that can eliminate it, but the overall structure of governance in UK is admired pretty much globally.”
This comes after Prime Minister Theresa May’s government launched a new inquiry into corporate governance, aiming to stamp out cases of the two controversial retail figures.
Despite having earned the title himself, he argued that retail bosses should not receive awards like knighthoods for their work in business, highlighting recent calls for Green to be stripped of his.
“The rewards for being in business should be primarily financial and other rewards and appreciations probably should be more directed at people who are not getting financial rewards,” Hampton said.
“I think to get both financial rewards and other recognition is a bit too easy.”
He went on to argue that although boardrooms have made a lot of progress in terms of gender equality, there is still a way to go.
“Boards have made a lot of progress, but boards are overwhelmingly non-executive now in our corporate governance framework, and having more women on boards is not the same as women having proper, effective business careers.”
“The bit that we’re missing is the focus on executive committees. Companies are run by their executive committees, the full-time people with the best-paid jobs who really decide most things, when a typical board member is two or three days a month, which is not the same thing.
“In executive committees, there is still noticeable female under-representation.”