“I can’t just appoint a woman because I want to”, “All the ‘good’ women have already been snapped up”, “I don’t think women fit comfortably into the board environment”. These are just a few of the worst reasons for not appointing women to FTSE company boards, according to a new report on gender balance.
The question: why are there not more women on top company boards? An assortment of feeble-sounding excuses, coming from a range of FTSE 350 Chairs and CEOs, were heard by the team behind the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review.
Although there has been a significant drop in the number of top companies with all-male boards, it seems that many remain unwilling to move with the times. A list of reasons for firms not including women among their top employees was revealed today, and there are some humdingers.
One of the most outrageous is the suggestion that women are unable to understand the “extremely complex” issues FTSE boards deal with and the idea women do not want the ‘hassle or pressure’ of sitting on a top board. The Hampton-Alexander Review has challenged all FTSE 350 companies to make sure at least a third of their board members and leadership are women by 2020.
The explanations include:
1. ‘I don’t think women fit comfortably into the board environment.’
2. ‘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.’
3. ‘Most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board.’
4. ‘Shareholders just aren’t interested in the make-up of the board, so why should we be?’
5. ‘My other board colleagues wouldn’t want to appoint a woman on our board.’
6. ‘All the ‘good’ women have already been snapped up.’
7. ‘We have one woman already on the board, so we are done - it is someone else’s turn.’
8. ‘There aren’t any vacancies at the moment - if there were I would think about appointing a woman.’
9. ‘We need to build the pipeline from the bottom - there just aren’t enough senior women in this sector.’
10. ‘I can’t just appoint a woman because I want to.’
The number of women on boards has more than doubled in the FTSE 350 since 2011 according to the most recent statistics (November 2017). In the same time frame, the number of all-male FTSE 350 company boards also fell from 152 to 10.
Business Minister Andrew Griffiths said “It’s shocking that some businesses think these pitiful and patronising excuses are acceptable reasons to keep women from the top jobs. Our most successful companies are those that champion diversity.”
Chair of the Hampton-Alexander Review Sir Philip Hampton said: “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.”
The latest figures for the number of women on FTSE 350 boards will be published on 27 June. New laws introduced in April 2017 required more than 8,100 private and voluntary sector companies to report their gender pay gaps by 4 April this year. Any company with more than 250 employees is required to report their gender pay gaps.
Chief Executive of Business in the Community Amanda Mackenzie 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.”
The number of women on boards has doubled in the FTSE 350 since 2011. Research by McKinsey suggests that bridging the gender pay gap could add £150 billion to the UK economy by 2025. This could translate into 840,000 additional female employees. See the full report here.
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