* Glencore had been criticised for lack of female directors
* Mining sector lags others for female representation
* Patrice Merrin holds number of other industry posts
(Adds Merrin's position on female representation, comment from
Hermes EOS CEO)
By Silvia Antonioli
LONDON, June 26 (Reuters) - Commodity trader and miner
Glencore Plc, the last London-listed blue-chip company
with an all-male board, has appointed Patrice Merrin as its
first female board director.
The group had come under fire from some shareholders over
its apparent failure to follow recommendations in a 2011 British
government review that called for more women on company boards.
Canadian mining expert Merrin, appointed a non-executive
director with immediate effect, had worked at Canadian miner
Sherritt for a decade before becoming chief executive of
Canada's largest thermal coal producer Luscar.
She is also a director of precious metals mining company
Stillwater and has been proposed as director of MFC
Industrial and Cliff Natural Resources.
"This is a historic day for the FTSE and for the reforms
I've been pushing for to ensure that there is more diversity in
the talent running our biggest companies," said UK Business
Secretary Vince Cable.
"This last appointment has been long in the making but I
congratulate Glencore Xstrata ... The case for change is clear -
businesses with diversity at their top are more successful.
British businesses have embraced this move for change and done
so in a voluntary way, without recourse for legal targets."
The UK government's Davies Review recommended that all firms
in the FTSE 100 index of leading shares should aim for
at least a quarter of board roles to be held by women by 2015.
Commodities was this year found to be the listed company
sector with the lowest percentage of female board members, at
only 13.6 percent against an average 24.7 percent, according to
researchers Nordic Investor Services.
Those findings echoed a 2013 report from accountants PwC
which said it had found mining lagged all other sectors,
including oil and gas, in terms of gender diversity, with only 5
percent of board seats held by women in the top 500 mining
The same study noted that profit margins were higher for
mining companies with women on the board.
Glencore's appointment came after Chairman Tony Hayward said
at the annual general meeting in May the company would name a
female director by the end of the year.
Hayward did not openly remark on the fact that the
appointment of Merrin puts an end to Glencore's female-free
board era, focusing instead on her skills.
"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," Hayward said.
Merrin could not be reached for comment.
A spokesman for London-based fund adviser Pensions
Investment Research Consultants (PIRC) said: "We welcome the
appointment and we look forward to hearing more from Glencore
with regards to their plans to create more diversity at board
Merrin herself has championed the cause of having more women
in boardrooms in Canada.
In a letter she sent in Oct. 2013 to the Ontario Securities
Commission she recommended it introduced a target that company
boards should comprise a minimum of 33 percent of women by the
end of June 2018 and it impose quotas if targets were not met.
In the letter, she suggested the Commission should have a
"just do it" attitude rather the "letting nature take its
course" view taken so far, which had produced poor results.
Colin Melvin, Chief Executive Officer at Hermes Equity
Ownership Services (EOS), welcomed Glencore's appointment, but
said greater boardroom diversity was needed.
"We support the aim of the 30% Club to achieve a
self-perpetuating proportion of female directors on corporate
boards by the end of 2015," he said in a statement.
Launched in 2010 in the UK, the 30% Club is composed of a
group of business leaders taking voluntary steps to reach a
target of having 30 percent women representation on FTSE-100
companies' boards by the end of 2015.
The latest annual progress report on Women on Boards earlier
this year showed women accounted for 20.7 percent of board
positions among FTSE=100 companies from 12.5 percent in 2011.
Chile-focused copper miner Antofagasta was the
second-last FTSE-100 company to appoint a woman to its board of
directors when it named Vivianne Blanlot as a director in March.
(Additional reporting by Euan Rocha, William James, Jemima
Kelly, Simon Jessop and Andrew Osborne; Editing by David Holmes
and Mark Potter)