People are boycotting a $60 billion retailer after the chairman said white men are 'an endangered species' on corporate boards

People are threatening to boycott Tesco after the grocery chain’s chairman said white men are becoming an “endangered species” on British corporate boards. 

“If you are a white male — tough,” Tesco chairman John Allan said at a conference this week, the Financial Times reported. “You are an endangered species and you are going to have to work twice as hard.”

The Financial Times noted that Allan is one of eight white men who sit on Tesco’s 11-person, all white board. Tesco generated £48.4bn in group sales for 15/16, equivalent to around $US59 billion. 

Many Tesco shoppers took to social media to protest Allan’s comment. 

 “Far from being in a ‘propitious’ position, any analysis of senior leadership roles in business will show the woeful under-representation of women and minority groups,” Sophie Walker, the leader of the UK’s Women’s Equality party, told The Guardian. 

“We are seeing a resurgence of feminist protest and activism against the kind of attitudes Allan betrays with these comments,” Walker continued. “With him at the helm, Tesco not only risks missing out on female talent, it will also alienate customers. I plan on doing my shopping elsewhere this weekend.”

Allan issued a statement on Saturday, saying he was an advocate of diversity, and regretted if his words were taken to mean the opposite.

“The point I was seeking to make was that successful Boards must be active in bringing together a diverse and representative set of people,” he said in a statement. “There is still much more to be done but now is a good time for women to put themselves forward for [non-executive director] roles.”

During the conference, Allan was also quoted by the Financial Times as saying: 

“For a thousand years men have got most of these jobs. The pendulum has swung very significantly the other way… If you are female and from an ethnic background and preferably both, then you are in an extremely propitious period.”

Only 29% of new directors appointed in the UK last year were women, according to headhunting firm Egon Zehnder. 

American boards have similar statistics.

Women hold roughly 15% of all director seats at publicly-traded US companies. In 2015, 30% of new board appointments were women, according to Heidrick & Struggles’ Board Monitor. In terms of racial diversity, only 9% of new appointments were African-American, 4% were Hispanic, and 5% were Asian or Asian-American. 

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