Colette Sexton, news correspondent at The Sunday Business Post, on why men need to give up the excuses and start handing out senior jobs to women.
Before you get started reading this article, I must pre-empt it with a warning. Are you a woman? If so, this probably is not the article for you. It is about business, and the corporate world. You would probably be happier reading some celebrity gossip or painting your nails.
Infuriated after that first paragraph? You should be. It is ridiculous that I made such an assumption. Of course, women care about the corporate world and can add much value to it. But it appears that it not clear to everyone.
Last week the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy in Britain released a report on the excuses given by chairs and chief executives of FTSE 350 companies as to why they do not have more women on their boards. Business minister Andrew Griffiths described the comments as “pitiful and patronising”, and I have to agree with him. Some of the excuses included:
“I don’t think women fit comfortably into the board environment”
“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”
“Most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board”
“Shareholders just aren’t interested in the make-up of the board, so why should we be?”
“My other board colleagues wouldn’t want to appoint a woman on our board”
“All the ‘good’ women have already been snapped up”
“We have one woman already on the board, so we are done – it is someone else’s turn”
“There aren’t any vacancies at the moment – if there were I would think about appointing a woman”
“We need to build the pipeline from the bottom – there just aren’t enough senior women in this sector”
“I can’t just appoint a woman because I want to”
On the plus side, the number of women on boards in the FTSE 350 has actually more than doubled since 2011 while the number of all-male FTSE 350 company boards has fallen from 152 to 10. But those responses show that there is still deep-seated misogyny at the top of many of these hugely powerful companies.
Do not be quick to dismiss this as a British problem. Britain boards are actually fair more gender equal than those in Ireland. Currently, non-state boards in Britain have close to 21 per cent women, more than double the number in Ireland, which is 10 per cent. While much work has been done, there is a lot more to do to combat that.
And in fairness to those FTSE 350 chairs and chief executives, they got one thing right. Women do not fit comfortably into the board environment. We make the pale, male and stale board members uncomfortable. We highlight their weaknesses and flaws. We point out things that need to be done differently. Although those seated at the board table might experience a little discomfort as a result, long-term the company improves for the better.