Some of the country’s biggest companies think women simply don’t “fit in” to boardrooms - and women on boards are calling bullshit.
In a new list of the top 10 excuses given by FTSE 350 companies for their boardroom gender gap, it’s been revealed some execs think “most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board”, the issues discussed are “too complex” for women and all the best women have already been “snapped up”.
The findings, released by The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis), are part of the Hampton-Alexander Review, which aims to increase the number of women on FTSE boards to 33% by the end of 2020.
Here’s what women have to say on the matter.
[READ MORE: FTSE boards: 10 worst excuses for ‘pitiful and patronising’ lack of women’]
Fiona Hathorn, managing director of Women on Boards (WOB), told HuffPost UK members sadly report hearing comments like the excuses listed “all the time”. “Stupid comments from men on FTSE boards is why WOB exists,” she said. “We provide information, encouragement and connections to help women get to the top within their own company or to take on a board or committee role as a non executive director (NED), trustee or governor. We are breaking down the barriers to entry to the boardroom and building the pipeline of board-ready women. Someone has to do it!”
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, told HuffPost UK the views in the list “belong in a museum not the boardroom”. “Men who display these prehistoric attitudes are roadblocks to getting more women on boards,” she said. “This is why progress is so slow and, as we repeatedly argue, they make a compelling case for quotas so that we can get past them and speed up change.”
In a statement, Amanda Mackenzie, chief executive of Business in the Community, added: “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.”
Victoria Darragh, founder of the Executive and Personal Assistants Association (EPAA) said as a CEO, she was “dismayed and appalled” to read the list of excuses. “In particular the reference to ‘extremely complex’ issues is insulting to say the very least,” she told HuffPost UK. “I would question if indeed some of the male directors can cope with the complexities of sitting on a corporate board given some of the decision making we have seen over the last decade. These excuses given are frankly just lazy and a complete cop out. No director should be allowed on any board with the mentality of what we saw in these comments.”
Meanwhile Marte Borhaug, head of environmental, social and governance (ESG) special projects at Aviva Investors was equally unimpressed. “Wow. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry,” she tweeted. “That UK companies really think these are reasons why women aren’t on boards is telling and truly worrying. ‘The issues covered are extremely complex’. What??”
Here are some of the other women calling time on the excuses: