‘All the good women have already been snapped up’: The ‘pitiful and patronizing’ excuses British companies give for their lack of diversity

Corporate Board Room

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Corporate Board Room
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  • A government report into gender balance at boardroom level reveals some shocking excuses for a lack of diversity.
  • Preview of the long-awaited Hampton-Alexander Review into boardroom diversity sheds light on lack of female board members.
  • Excuses included that: “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.”

This was one of many comments from a UK government commissioned report into gender balance, which revealed some old-fashioned attitudes to women board members at FTSE 100 companies.

Responding to the comments which were published on Wednesday ahead of the Hampton-Alexander Review’s full release in June, British business minister Andrew Griffiths called the statements from top UK companies “pitiful and patronizing.”

The government included a handful of the most ridiculous excuses companies gave for a lack of gender-balance on their boards. Here are the 10 “best” picked out:

  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.”

Amanda Mackenzie, chief executive of Business in the Community, an organisation that advocates for corporate social responsibility, 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.”

The Department for Business said progress has been made with statistics showing that since 2011 the number of all-male FTSE 350 company boards has fallen from 152 to 10. But the list shows there is more to be done.

The British government wants women to make up at least a third of boards for the UK’s 350 biggest companies by 2020, and is using reports such as Hampton-Alexander Review, which will be released in June, to raise awareness of the issue.