Not having women on boards is bonkers, and so are the excuses

Today a into women’s representation at senior levels in business released what it rightly calls the Top 10 worst excuses for not appointing women executives.

These include:

  • “Most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board”
  • “My other board colleagues wouldn’t want to appoint a woman on our board”
  • “All the ‘good’ women have already been snapped up”

Huh. We’re going to be polite here and just mark these excuses down as…. bonkers (we were tempted by another word beginning with B, but that is NSFW).

The thing about being a young business is you can shape it in the way that you want. You haven’t got the established power structures, the path dependency, or such a strong self-selection effect. But you also don’t engage in anything like the self-deception and lame excuses that many big companies do.

We have a female Founder & CEO. A third of our Board are women, 50% of our leadership team are, and we have a near bang-on 50-50 split in the office. None of this down to an explicit policy* – we simply find that when you try to hire the most talented people from the general population – which is half full of women – then you end up with a company that is…. half full of women!

Now there are some genuine reasons behind why women are under-represented in certain fields, or why there are structural pay imbalances like at airlines. We also think that there is a very clear motherhood effect which severely impacts career progression for women (in our experience, the female senior leaders who are mums seem to have that burden more present in their lives than the senior leaders who are – very good – dads).

There are some genuine issues here to tackle and many of them aren’t going to be easily resolved. But there are also a whole bunch of fake issues and poor excuses, and it’s important to call them out:

  • Women are fine with the hassle and pressure of sitting on a board – they sit on ours
  • Other board colleagues are perfectly happy with women on the board and in senior leadership roles are – at least the men at UnderTheDoormat are
  • Not all of the talented women have been snapped up already – we see loads of them, and we’re lucky enough to have hired some of them

Not having people from half the population in senior positions in nothing short of bonkers. And so are these excuses.

* We have an equal opportunities policy for sure, but we don’t have one designed to achieve this balance