Tesco’s chairman John Allan has claimed that his comment on white men becoming an “endangered species” in boardrooms was meant to be “humorous.”
Allan has faced a backlash from politicians, women’s groups and other business leaders for his controversial statement made at industry conference Retail Week Live earlier this week.
He told attendees that "the pendulum has swung very significantly" and that it’s now an "extremely propitious period" to be "female and from an ethnic background and preferably both".
"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,” he said.
"If you are a white male - tough - you are an endangered species and you are going to have to work twice as hard."
Allan sits alongside eight other white men and three white women on Tesco's board.
He has since sought to clarify his position, telling The Guardian that “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.
"It was intended to be humorous, a bit hyperbolic.
"Clearly, white men are not literally an endangered species but I was actually wanting to make the reverse point, which is that it is a great time for women and people of ethnic minorities who want to get on in business."