Companies in the FTSE 100 have made strong strides towards gender equality at board -level with Next, Rightmove, stockbroker Hargreaves Lansdown and construction provider Taylor Wimpey having more than half of their board seats taken by women.
However, targets have been slow to take effect across other top UK businesses. In May of 2018, the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy published some responses from FTSE 350 CEOs and Chairs on why there were relatively few women on boards.
The responses were ridiculed. Business minister Andrew Griffiths described the comments as “pitiful and patronising”. Crucially the comments failed to reveal any consensus on why women are under-represented.
Among the responses judged the worst in the report:
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 makeup 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’
Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt said in a statement by FTSE Women Leaders “When women are included we know that businesses are more likely to enjoy profits above their industry averages. Today, we can see that the top UK companies are taking action, not just because gender equality is morally right, but also because it makes good business sense. “But there is still more to do. By addressing their inequalities and cultures, businesses are setting an example that gives women throughout their organisations the power to reach their full potential.’