Revealed: The worst explanations for not appointing women to FTSE company boards

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The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has published the worst explanations given by FTSE companies for not appointing women to their boards.

The explanations, which come from a range of FTSE 350 Chairs and CEOs, were heard by the team behind the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review.

The government-backed review has challenged all FTSE 350 companies to ensure that at least a third of their board members and leadership are women by 2020.

Despite a major drop in the number of top companies with all-male boards, many are still refusing to move with the times – and some of the worst explanations firms have made for not having women among their top employees have been revealed in a new report.

Outrageous explanations for not appointing more women include suggestions they are not able to understand the ‘extremely complex’ issues FTSE boards deal with and the idea women do not want the ‘hassle or pressure’ of sitting on a top board.

The worst explanations heard by the team 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 on the board 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


Emma O’Leary is an employment law consultant for the ELAS Group. She says:

“We’re used to hearing a plethora of pathetic excuses offered for not doing something, however this report has revealed some absolute shockers. The excuses for not appointing women to FTSE boards once again reveals the entrenched antiquated attitudes that still exist at board level. Perhaps these board members would prefer women to simply stay at home making their dinner as, clearly, talent and merit comes much lower down their list of essential requirements for a board member than gender.

“Just when we thought that progress would be made by gender pay gap reporting, this report appears to show that it’s more a case of one step forward, two steps back when it comes to gender equality. It’s clear that discriminatory practice continues to be rife at senior level, and much more needs to be done to change this.”

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5 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. While I agree with the sentiment I do think point two shouldn’t of made it on the list. “Not having the right credentials or experience”, is a perfectly valid reason for not getting a job, so why is a boardroom any different?

  2. Ryan, I don’t think that is the issue. The issue is the generalization that not that many women have the right credentials and depth of experience to sit on the board. How do they know this? The evidence they have is likely anecdotal and the root cause may be in the recruitment and selection process. I agree that jobs should be appointed on merit and gender should not be considered however if a recruitment panel sets out with the mindset that not that may women have the credentials then there is a higher likelihood that there will be unconscious bias against female candidates during the process. I am pleased to report that we recently recruited a Chief Executive and had more women apply than men for the first time ever. The appointing panel selected a female candidate based purely on merit and I think this is because over the last 15 to 20 years more women have been given the opportunity to hold jobs traditionally held by men which has given them the opportunity to gain the technical knowledge / background required to successfully apply for these jobs.

  3. Ryan, I think its more a case of whether the people concerned actually looked for women with the right credentials or experience – its a lazy view that there are none out there.

  4. The reasons for not having more women, or worse, no women at Board level are shocking. I agree individuals need to have the right talent and merit but I don’t like the second part of point two and particularly the statement that at Board level, ‘ issues covered are extremely complex’. The issues at times may well be complex, but the implication is that women would not be fit to deal with extremely complex issues and this is both shocking and outrageous!

  5. Some of these reasons are sensible but many are terrible. What would be even more powerful and brave is for women to set up companies themselves that eventually become FTSE/Global. That way they are in the hotseat to decide who to hire. If this could happen it would be wonderful.

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