Comment on FTSE 350 explanations for lack of women in boardrooms

ftse 350 excuses maxine benson may 2018

These outdated comments are unsettling for all those companies with a vested commitment to inclusive and diverse business. We need to move on to with new thinking and approaches.

everywoman co-founder, Maxine Benson MBE

The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy has published some findings from the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review, revealing the explanations – or excuses - cited by a range of FTSE 350 Chairs and CEOS.

The excuses cited by a small number of FTSE 350 companies reveals that the issue of gender diversity is not going away despite being in the headlines for much of 2018 with #metoo #timesup and the gender pay gap. 

Many of the comments shared were outdated and have no place in modern business, but they point towards wider issues that everywoman has been highlighting and helping organisations to address nearly 20 years.

  1. Structures stifling diversity: For too long, businesses have hung onto an outdated and hierarchical structure that has stifled gender diversity at the higher levels.  As FTSE 350 organisations are under pressure to increase female board members to one third within the next 18 months, they are finding that the construct of their making does not work for 21st-century business, but they are too slow to make the necessary changes.
  2. Hierarchical management, lack of flexibility and insufficient drive for change have suffocated the business environment.  Businesses have tried to address the issue by creating networks, providing senior female speakers and starting women’s groups. This access to role models plays a vital part in empowering others to achieve their ambitions but today’s role models are not simply women doing what men have always done but are those who bring new leadership styles and thinking.


Benson says, “The excuses published today will unsettle many and cause a firestorm as commentators and experts rush to denounce them, but this turbulence may be just what is needed. The comments from the CEOs in the report are broad statements about what most women want, what shareholders are interested in and what other board colleagues value. The assumption is that “they will all think like me” and this is the very reason we need greater diversity throughout an organisation and especially at the top. Gender balance isn’t the problem, it’s part of the solution. Change needs to be bold and businesses must build teams, not just Boards, of diverse thought, skills and experience.”