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Jun 25, 2014

Glencore appointment eliminates last all-male board in the FTSE 100

Patrice Merrin becomes first woman director at mining giant

Glencore is no longer the only FTSE 100 company without female boardroom representation after announcing the appointment of mining veteran Patrice Merrin.

The former CEO of Luscar, Canada’s largest thermal coal producer, Merrin also serves as a non-executive director of Stillwater Mining, having been proposed by activists in a proxy contest, according to a statement from Glencore announcing her appointment. ‘She has also recently been proposed by activists for the boards of MFC Industrial and Cliffs Natural Resources,’ adds the firm.

Switzerland-based Glencore, one of the largest diversified natural resource companies in the world, had come under increasing pressure to appoint a woman to the board after becoming the only FTSE 100 firm with an all-male board following fellow mining company Antofagasta’s hiring of former Chilean minister Vivianne Blanlot earlier this year. A year ago, seven FTSE 100 companies had all-male boards.

Tony Hayward, Gelncore’s chairman, told shareholders in May that the company planned to shed its status as the last all-male FTSE 100 board before the end of the year. His announcement followed pressure from shareholders, interested parties and even Vince Cable, the UK’s business secretary, ahead of the firm’s AGM. A number of institutional investors had threatened not to approve Glencore’s annual report and accounts over the issue.

While Hayward commented on the company’s intentions at the time, he makes no mention of the board’s gender balance in comments welcoming Merrin: ‘Patrice’s in-depth experience of operating across the resources sector will help strengthen the board’s ability to work with the opportunities and challenges presented by the global extractive industry. Her record of non-executive director appointments, activist involvement and industry advisory board service is also an excellent complementary skill set for our board.’

In a statement issued by the UK government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Cable says Merrin’s appointment is ‘a historic day for the FTSE’, adding that ‘this last appointment has been long in the making’ and has been ‘achieved [by] working hand in hand with business, not by imposing tokenistic targets’, as favored by other countries.

‘The case for change is clear – businesses with diversity at their top are more successful,’ continues Cable. Despite commending British businesses for having ‘embraced this move for change…in a voluntary way, without recourse for legal targets’, he says ‘much more needs to be done, of course, to tackle diversity in the FTSE 250 and to fix the pipeline of women working their way up to the top of businesses to become the leaders of tomorrow.’

Garnet Roach

An award-winning journalist, Garnet Roach joined IR Magazine in October 2012, working on both the editorial and research sides of the publication. Prior to entering the world of investor relations, her freelance career covered a broad range of...