The best women have already been “snapped up”. Or, the companies are just too “complex” to have a woman on the board. Other female candidates just wouldn’t “fit in”.
These are just some of the excuses being used to explain why some of the UK’s top companies aren’t appointing women to boardroom positions.
Revealed as part of a damning gender balance review of the FTSE 350 companies, the business minister has hit out and called the excuses “pitiful and patronising”.
The government wants women to make up at least a third of boards for the UK’s 350 biggest companies by 2020.
Andrew Griffiths said on Wednesday: “It’s shocking that some businesses think these pitiful and patronising excuses are acceptable reasons to keep women from the top jobs,” Griffiths said. “Our most successful companies are those that champion diversity.”
The top worst excuses singled out by review are...
•“I don’t think women fit comfortably into the board environment.”
• “There aren’t that many women with the right credentials and depth of experience to sit on the board – the issues covered are extremely complex.”
• “Most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board.”
• “Shareholders just aren’t interested in the make-up of the board, so why should we be?”
• “My other board colleagues wouldn’t want to appoint a woman on our board.”
• “All the ‘good’ women have already been snapped up.”
• “We have one woman already on the board, so we are done – it is someone else’s turn.”
• “There aren’t any vacancies at the moment – if there were I would think about appointing a woman.”
• “We need to build the pipeline from the bottom – there just aren’t enough senior women in this sector.”
• “I can’t just appoint a woman because I want to.”
The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) revealed their findings as part of the Hampton-Alexander Review which reaches its halfway mark in June. It aims to increase the number of women on FTSE boards with the goal of achieving 33% target by the end of 2020.
Amanda Mackenzie, chief executive of Business in the Community, said: “As you read this list of excuses you might think it’s 1918 not 2018.
“It reads like a script from a comedy parody but it’s true. Surely we can now tackle this once and for all.
“Maybe those that give credence to these excuses are the ones that are not up to sitting on boards and should move over: we are in the 21st century after all.”
In April the oil giant BP and retailer Sports Direct were among 35 of the UK’s biggest companies taken to task for failing to meet targets to increase the number of women in the boardroom.
The Investment Association and the Hampton-Alexander Review wrote to 35 firms in the FTSE 350 who had no or low female representation on the board, calling for urgent action.
Beis said on Wednesday the number of male-only FTSE 350 company boards fell from 152 in 2011 to 10 in 2017.
Review chairman Sir Philip Hampton added: “Around a third of FTSE 350 companies still have very few women either on their boards or in senior leadership roles.
“We used to hear these excuses regularly a few years ago, thankfully much less so now.
“However, leaders expressing warm words of support but actually doing very little to appoint women into top jobs – or quietly blocking progress – are really not much better.”