The number of women with positions on investment trust boards has jumped substantially over the past decade, according to a new report from Investec. However, experts highlight the sector still has a long way to go to shed its past of being "stale, male and pale".
The Skin in the Game report shows that 34.5% of directorships are now held by women compared to 8% in 2010. The number of women chairs has also increased to 19.8% compared to 3.8% in 2010.
However, there are still concerns of an exclusive club, as 24% of board members hold more than one directorship for an investment trust, while nine people sit on five boards, four of which are women.
"It's quite scary when you look back to where the industry was and it was a stale, male and pale view," said Alan Brierley, Investec analyst and co-author of the report.
He expects that over the next decade the numbers will edge toward parity for men and women on boards and there will be an increase in the number of women chairs.
Shareholders are driving a substantial part of the change.
"A lot of the resolutions that we focus on when looking at proxy voting with regards to investment companies relate to board composition. Most commonly: too few members, a lack of diversity, overboarding, conflicts of interest," said Genevra Banszky von Ambroz, fund manager at Smith & Williamson.
"It's vaguely encouraging to see some progress on the diversity front, albeit from a very low bar, and focused primarily on gender thus far."
The Association of Investment Companies (AIC) is trying to promote more gender, social and ethnic diversity on boards. Last year it launched an online resource centre, Pathway, which provides resources for potential candidates.
Annabel Brodie-Smith, communications director of the AIC, said: "We have had strong registration numbers [for Pathway] and there has also been good attendance at the AIC events to encourage new people, who might have not thought about becoming an NED before, to find out more about the industry."