Tesco chairman John Allan argues white men are now an “endangered species” as prospective non-exec directors as boards scramble to hire female and ethnic minority board members.
In a panel discussion at Retail Week Live on how to become a non-exec director, Allan described how the need for diversity at the upper echelons of companies was impacting the hiring process for non-exec directors (NEDs).
He said: “If you are female and from an ethnic background and preferably both then you are in an extremely propitious period.
“For a thousand years men have got most of these jobs, the pendulum has swung very significantly the other way now and will do for the foreseeable future I think.
“Tesco have appointed an almost completely new board at Tesco in the last 18 months, we now have 8 non-executive directors, 6 of whom are new, three of whom are women”
“If you are a white male – tough – you are an endangered species and you are going to have to work twice as hard.”
When challenged on whether they were really “endangered” Allan said he believed they were when it came to “prospective NEDs”.
Allan added: “There is loads of female talent out there, you have got to be prepared to look for it and you need to tell the headhunters that you really want them to serve up the most talented people they can find, but to ensure there is a good mix.
“Tesco have appointed an almost completely new board at Tesco in the last 18 months, we now have 8 non-executive directors, 6 of whom are new, three of whom are women.”
Morrisons chairman Andrew Higginson admitted the retail industry had a way to go when it comes to increasing diversity in more senior positions.
Higginson said that when he joined the company there were “store managers called Adam than there were female store managers”.
He added that “we’ve made good progress” and says the industry has “an awful lot to do and it is fair cop”.
When asked on the best type of company to join for a first non-executive director position Boohoo.com chairman Peter Williams said high-risk companies are best avoided.
He explained: “You don’t want to fail on the first one because we have all spent decades building our reputations and you can destroy it in a second if a company goes bust.”