One company claimed that women would not understand the “extremely complex” issues covered during board meetings, while another excused its all-male leadership group by claiming that “board colleagues wouldn’t want to appoint a woman”.
A third said that “most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board”.
Business minister Andrew Griffith said: “It is shocking that some businesses think these pitiful and patronising excuses are acceptable reasons to keep women from top jobs.
“Our most successful companies are those that champion diversity.”
The excuses were all made to the team working for the Hampton-Alexander Review, which is backed by the government and scrutinises the gender balance of boards at the top of Britain’s leading companies.
It is aiming for women to hold a third of senior positions.
Among the explanations given for not employing more women were these:
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”.
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The latest statistics on the number of women in Britain’s boardrooms will be announced at the end of June.
It follows the publication of data about the gender pay gap from more than 8,000 companies earlier this year.