10 ‘shocking and pathetic excuses’ FTSE businesses have given for not appointing women to company boards

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A report backed by the British government, has revealed 10 of the "worst explanations" that researchers heard given for not employing women to the boards of the U.K.'s largest companies.

Gender equality in the workplace may be showing signs of improvement, but a report published Thursday has revealed just how much is left to be done.

The study, backed by the British government, revealed 10 of the "worst explanations" that researchers heard given for not employing women to the boards of the U.K.'s largest companies.

The excuses — which have been branded as "shocking" and "patronizing" — included statements that "all the 'good' women have already been snapped up" and that "most women don't want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board."

They came from a range of FTSE 350 chairs and chief executives according to the release, and were heard by the team working on the Hampton-Alexander Review, which is calling upon FTSE 350 bosses to make sure that at least a third of all leadership roles and board members are filled by women by 2020.

The 10 explanations are:

  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."

British government officials and leading business figures have criticized the explanations given, adding that the comments emphasize the need for more gender-equal boards.

"It's shocking that some businesses think these pitiful and patronizing excuses are acceptable reasons to keep women from the top jobs," Business Minister Andrew Griffiths said in a statement.

Conservative politician and U.K. government minister Ian Duncan dubbed the excuses "shocking and pathetic," while Amanda Mackenzie, CEO of responsible business organization Business in the Community, said that "you might think it's 1918, not 2018. It (the list) reads like a script from a comedy parody, but it's true."

However, Mackenzie remained optimistic that a more gender-equal future was becoming more likely.

"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," she said.

"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."

Signs of improvement were highlighted in a report published in March that showed that almost 29 percent of FTSE 100 board positions are now held by women, up from 12.5 percent in 2011. The same report revealed that the number for women on FTSE 350 boards had risen to 25.2 percent.

This year, the U.K. government enforced businesses with over 250 workers to publish gender pay gap figures by the beginning of April . Many companies reported a gender pay disparity and attributed it to not having enough women in senior roles , but that they would commit to increasing opportunities for women.

"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," Sir Philip Hampton, chair of the Hampton-Alexander Review, said in a statement.

"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."

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