‘’Most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board,’’ this was one of many excuses given by FTSE 350 companies to Sir Philip Hampton who leads the Hampton-Alexander government review into female representation within FTSE companies.
The review so far has captured the views of 23,000 leaders in 350 of the UK’s largest companies. Women holding positions on boards of top 100 FTSE companies has been slow to rise, gaining less than 1% as female representation in the boardroom rose from 26.6% in 2016 to 27.7% last year.
Among the excuses offered by FTSE 350 Chairs and CEO’s were: “I don’t think women fit comfortably into the board environment,’’ and “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.’’
Speaking to Computer Business Review, Professor of Sociology at Goldsmiths University Caroline Knowles said: “The idea that all of the ‘best’ – whatever that means – women have already been taken up and a poorer pool is left is absurd. Bright, talented and competent women are joining corporations all the time. This is a stream, not a stagnant pool, and it probably contains all sorts of unrecognised talent and potential that could be developed in female employees.”
Reacting to the report Minister for Business Andrew Griffiths commented; ‘’ It’s shocking that some businesses think these pitiful and patronising excuses are acceptable reasons to keep women from the top jobs.’’
Also responding to the government’s report, Amanda Mackenzie, Chief Executive of Business in the Community noted: “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.’’
She added: “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 FTSE 100 set a target last year to reach a level of over a third female representation in leadership roles. This goal has now been extend to include FTSE 250 companies.
The disparaging comments from some CEO’s and chairs comes at a time of increased awareness of male-orientated work spaces, with certain technological companies receiving stark criticism from former female employees.
Just this week a former Snapchat software engineer, Shannon Lubetich, accused the company of cultivating a toxic sexist environment. A Snap spokesperson accordingly revealed to Cheddar, who ran the original Lubetich accusations, that only 13% of technology positions at the company are held by female workers.
Laws introduced into the UK in April of 2017 ensure that any company with a staff of over 250 must report their gender pay gaps. This is seen as a step in the right direction in balancing out how gender issues are treated within companies and should help to modernise UK work spaces.
Commenting on the financial incentive to have greater female inclusion in companies Professor Knowles stated; ‘’Arguments about social equity aside, it is simply shortsighted and financially stupid not to develop a greater participation of women at the top of UK corporate life.’’