As discussed in this article from the WSJ, the UK government is conducting a review of the reasons underlying the low proportion of women in top executive positions at companies in the FTSE 350 index. According to the article, the goal is to have women occupy at least one-third of board seats by 2020. However, in 2017, 24.5% of the boards seats at FTSE 350 companies were occupied by women compared with 23% in 2016 and 9.5% in 2011.

But the most astonishing aspect are the atavistic quotes from a range of FTSE 350 Chairs and CEOs explaining the dearth of women in top positions. The quotes—which, yes, are from (presumably) men in the 21st century—were disclosed in a release from the UK government and are copied below:

  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’”

The UK Business Minister characterized the comments as “patronising” and “appalling.” But that’s not the end of it. According to another commentator quoted in the UK government release, “leaders expressing warm words of support but actually doing very little to appoint women into top jobs—or quietly blocking progress—are really not much better.”

And, according to one female CEO quoted in the release: “As you read this list of excuses you might think it’s 1918 not 2018. It reads like a script from a comedy parody but it’s true. Surely we can now tackle this once and for all. Maybe those that give credence to these excuses are the ones that are not up to sitting on boards and should move over: we are in the 21st century after all.”