The 10 worst excuses for male-dominated company boards

Hampton-Alexander Review brands firms' excuses as "pitiful and patronising"

FTSE-listed companies are still holding out on appointing women to their boards, with a government-backed review likening their reasons to "a script from a comedy parody".

While the number of all-male boards in FTSE 350 firms has dropped from 152 in 2011 to just 10 in 2017, the Hampton-Alexander Review is urging businesses to appoint more women to their top level, demanding women make up at least one-third of every board and leadership team by 2020.

However, the review branded some of the excuses they have been getting from businesses on their lack of progress on this goal as "pitiful and patronising".

The government-backed review team even went so far as to release the 10 worst excuses it's heard, which range from "all the good women have already been snapped up" to "there aren't any vacancies", with some suggesting women can't understand "extremely complex" issues discussed by boards.

Charity Business in the Community's CEO, 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."

Business minister Andrew Griffiths added: "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."

But chair of the review, Sir Philip Hampton, said the excuses are much less common now than in previous years, despite a third of FTSE 350 companies still lacking women on their boards or in senior leadership roles.

"We used to hear these excuses regularly a few years ago, thankfully much less so now," he said. "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."

The review is the government's latest drive to improve gender diversity in businesses.

A new law forced companies to reveal their average gender pay gaps last month, finding that eight in 10 organisations pay men more than women, who earn on average 9.7% less per hour than their male counterparts.

McKinsey data suggests that bridging this pay gap could add 150 billion to the UK economy by 2025, with 840,000 more women in work.

"Thankfully, there has been great progress in recent years and through our modern Industrial Strategy and the Hampton-Alexander Review we are determined that everyone has an equal opportunity to reach the top," said Griffiths.

Mackenzie added: "We have plenty of reasons to be optimistic; the combination of gender pay gap reporting and the increased focus on equality and diversity in general by responsible businesses means there are more women on boards than ever before.

"While we still have a long way to go, with the collaboration between government, employers and their employees (both men and women), we could see true equality in our lifetime."

The Hampton-Alexander Review will reveal the latest figures for the number of women on FTSE boards on 27 June to mark its halfway point, after launching in November 2016.

Here are the 10 worst excuses the review has heard about a lack of a gender diversity at board and leadership levels.

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'

Picture: Shutterstock

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