You'll Cringe at These 10 Terrible Excuses for Why Companies Don't Have Women on Their Boards of Directors
Free Book Preview: Coach ’Em Way Up
Just over one in five board seats across all Fortune 500 companies is occupied by a woman, and in the U.K., among the top 350 companies listed on the Financial Times Stock Exchange, the disparity is slightly smaller -- closer to one in four.
The British government is determined to get that ratio to one in three by 2020. That’s still far from an equal ratio of men to women, but the government’s efforts are accelerating progress. In 2011, 152 of the biggest British companies had all-male boards, and as of 2017, only 10 did.
From chairs and CEOs of companies whose boards have fewer seats filled by women, the U.K. government has collected some curious explanations. A report from the government-commissioned Hampton-Alexander Review lists the 10 most outrageous, cringe-worthy and just plain lame excuses for underrepresentation:
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.”
“It’s shocking that some businesses think these pitiful and patronising excuses are acceptable reasons to keep women from the top jobs,” Business Minister Andrew Griffiths said of the list in a statement.
The government of the U.K. is invested in achieving gender parity for more than moral reasons, and beyond boards. It cites a McKinsey finding that “bridging the gender pay gap could add £150 billion [$200 billion] to the U.K. economy by 2025,” and that “tackling the gender pay gap is part of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy” to “boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the U.K.”
The government also instituted a law earlier this year that requires all companies with more than 250 employees to report differences in average pay between male and female employees.
As always, it’s important to note that gender diversity is just the beginning of equal representation. Although 20.2 percent of Fortune 500 board members are women, only 3.8 percent of all seats are filled by non-white women.