The chairman of a $60 billion retailer says white men are 'an endangered species' at the highest levels of corporate power

Kate Taylor
Tesco

AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

White men are becoming an "endangered species" on British corporate boards, according to the chairman of UK-based grocery chain Tesco. 

"If you are a white male — tough," Tesco chairman John Allen said at a conference this week, the Financial Times reports. "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 $59 billion. 

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. 

Despite these figures, Allan says he believes white men are disadvantaged when it comes to joining corporate boards. 

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

Only 5% of public company directors surveyed by consulting firm PwC last October believe women should make up more than half of a public board — but one in 10 believed that the ideal percentage of women was between 0 and 20%. 

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