Tesco chairman's 'white men are endangered species' comments spark backlash from men called John

More men named John than women run FTSE 100 companies, letter points out

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Tesco is facing a backlash from men called John, angry at the company chairman’s comments that white men are an “endangered species” in the boardroom.

They have penned an open letter to chairman John Allan pointing out that, far from being endangered, white men continue to be over-represented in UK boardrooms.

The letter, which was circulating on social media on Monday, says: “White men are not an endangered species in the boardroom. In fact, more men called John run FTSE 100 companies than women.” 

“We are all called John and we don't think that is ok. It's time white men took representation and diversity more seriously, especially when they occupy positions of power like you do.”

The letter aims to collect the signatures of 100 men named John who reject the Tesco chairman’s remarks. By mid-morning on Monday 44 Johns had signed the letter from places as far afield as Kigali in Rwanda to Sydney, Australia. It is unclear who the original author is.

Speaking to a session for aspiring non-executive directors at the Retail Week Live conference the day after International Women’s Day last week, Mr Allan 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.

“If you are a white male, tough. You are an endangered species and you are going to have to work twice as hard.”

Mr Allan later said his words had been taken out of context and that they were intended to be funny.

“The context was that I was talking to a bunch of aspiring non-executive directors, many of whom were women, and I wanted to give them some encouragement and, therefore, I used that rather colourful turn of speech,” he said.

“And the audience, I think, was quite amused and quite enjoyed it.”

Women’s Equality Party leader, Sophie Walker told the Retail Gazette she would no longer be shopping at Tesco as a result of Mr Allan’s comments and warned that other consumers would also be alienated.

“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,” she said.

In 2016, Tesco appointed women to half of its board’s vacant positions, but it still counts just three among its 11 all-white members.

Less than a quarter of FTSE 100 boardroom recruits in the six months to March 2016 were women, the lowest level since 2011, according to the latest Female FTSE Board Report.

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