August 6, 2018 / 5:36 PM / 2 months ago

British women-only club defends hiring male boss

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The founders of Britain’s first club for businesswomen defended their decision to appoint a chairman on Monday after criticism from some gender rights activists, saying men needed to be “part of the solution”.

AllBright, a London private members’ club launched in March to connect female entrepreneurs, announced on Monday it had appointed the former head of the Asda supermarket group Allan Leighton as chairman.

Members include the tech entrepreneur Martha Lane-Fox and actresses Naomie Harris and Ruth Wilson.

“AllBright is all about celebrating and championing women, but it’s also about bringing enlightened men on the journey with us,” said founders Debbie Wosskow and Anna Jones in a statement.

“Most importantly, we recognize that having Allan on board demonstrates the need for men like him to be part of the solution in helping to change the economic landscape for women - this is the only way that real change is going to happen.”

The appointment drew criticism online and from campaign groups in Britain, where just six percent of the biggest publicly-listed companies are headed by women.

“It would have been great to see a strategic, smart and enthusiastic woman at the helm of such a powerful and change-making organization,” said Seyi Newell, a spokeswoman for women’s rights group Rosa.

“We don’t see nearly enough women in those positions so this seems like a missed opportunity,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a statement.

Workplace gender equality has been in the spotlight in Britain since last year, when it emerged there were pay disparities at major public institutions, including the BBC.

“In an organization about promoting women in business leadership, if you could find no suitable female candidates to put at the top, then you’re part of the problem, not the solution”, tweeted Nicola Miller, founder of A Mile In Her Shoes, a charity helping homeless women.

Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org

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