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Women on board

‘All the “good” women have already been snapped up’, one company executive said, according to a government report about women in the boardroom.

Women aren’t a good fit in boardrooms, most of them don’t want the hassle of a big job and they don’t understand the complex issues discussed in board meetings. That is according to executives at the UK’s biggest firms, who have offered the excuses to explain why their boardrooms are dominated by men.

The business minister Andrew Griffiths, responding to a report released by his department on Wednesday, described the comments as “pitiful and patronising” as he sought to highlight how far FTSE 350 companies have to go at the top level.

According to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, the excuses given included:

“I don’t think women fit comfortably into the board environment”.

“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”.

“Most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board”.

“Shareholders just aren’t interested in the make-up of the board, so why should we be?”.

“My other board colleagues wouldn’t want to appoint a woman on our board”.

“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”.

“There aren’t any vacancies at the moment – if there were I would think about appointing a woman”.

“We need to build the pipeline from the bottom – there just aren’t enough senior women in this sector”.

“I can’t just appoint a woman because I want to”.

Amanda Mackenzie, chief executive of Business in the Community, an organisation that champions 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. 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 independent Hampton-Alexander review is being led by Sir Philip Hampton, one of Britain’s most highly regarded bosses, who has challenged all FTSE 350 companies to make sure at least a third of their board members and leaders are women by 2020.

He said excuses such as those highlighted in the government report were heard less now than a few years ago. “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 Department for Business said there had been some more tangible progress in recent years, with the number of women on boards having “more than doubled in the FTSE 350 since 2011”, according to the most recent statistics – released in November last year. “In that time, the number of all-male FTSE 350 company boards also fell from 152 to 10,” it said.

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