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Shareholders urged to vote out Playtech chair over gender imbalance

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<span>Photograph: Blend Images/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Blend Images/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy

The female head of gambling software supplier Playtech is facing a possible backlash from shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting over the low number of women on its board.

Glass Lewis, one of the world’s largest and most influential investor advisory services, has recommended that shareholders vote against Claire Milne’s re-election as chair at the AGM in late May, citing its concerns over “lack of board gender diversity”.

If investors heed the advice, Playtech would be left in the awkward position of recording an even greater gender imbalance on its board.

Playtech’s seven-strong board only includes two women – Milne and Anna Massion, a non-executive director – leaving the company below the 33% threshold for female representation, as recommended by the Hampton-Alexander review.

Glass Lewis recommends the re-election of all other Playtech directors, as first reported by Sky News, as well as a vote in favour of the company’s remuneration policy.

While the government-backed 33% target is voluntary, Glass Lewis reprimanded Playtech, the company behind the software powering thousands of fixed-odds betting terminals and Sun Bingo, for its failure to follow its peers and improve its boardroom gender diversity.

Milne, who has led Playtech group as its interim chair for the past year, is due to step down at the start of June, when she will be succeeded by gambling industry veteran Brian Mattingley, who joins from online betting firm 888.

Following Mattingley’s arrival, the advisory group found that women would only occupy a quarter of Playtech’s boardroom positions. Women represented just 19% of senior management, while 39% of the firm’s employees were female.

Glass Lewis criticised Playtech’s stance on improving diversity at the company, saying that it had “failed to adequately outline any measurable diversity objectives, instead opting for boilerplate language which provides little insight into what strategy the board is employing to enhance diversity”.

The advisory group added: “The board has not disclosed any commitment to achieve the Hampton-Alexander Review targets within a defined time frame despite the company failing to achieve the same by the 2020 deadline.”

Playtech has previously faced large-scale revolt from shareholders. In 2020, almost two-thirds (64%) of its investors voted against the 2019 pay and benefits package awarded to the company’s chief executive, although the result was not binding.