Boardroom quotas for women 'demeaning'

A BLOG POST BY BARONESS GOUDIE,  POSTED ON PUBLIC SERVICE EUROPEBoardroom quotas for women Enforcing quotas for women on company boards does not work – and while voluntary change may take longer, it will deliver real sustainable results, writes a founding member of the 30% Club

How could an organisation set up to increase the percentage of women on boards welcome the European Commission's negative response to vice-president Viviane Reding's quota proposals?

Why wouldn't the 30% Club, formed purely and solely to achieve a revolutionary change to the gender split on boards, not want the commission to impose a 40 per cent quota on company boards? The answer is simple. We believe that quotas do not work, they are counter-productive and they are demeaning.

Voluntary change is the right approach to achieving a balanced board. Indeed, quotas can actually be harmful to the development of diversity and are not the best way forward. The United Kingdom is a great example of where a merit-led approach to gender diversity on company boards does work.

While there are too few executive women on boards, the overall pace of change, especially in the FTSE 100, is striking. Since March 1 this year, 48 per cent of FTSE100 non-executive director appointments have gone to women, which equates to 30 out of 62. Women now make up 17.3 per cent of FTSE 100 boards, up from 12.5 per cent only two years ago.

There is an alternative to quotas; a voluntary approach that will have a positive impact at all levels within an organisation. We are interested in a sustainable increase in the pipeline, which will take longer but deliver real benefits to businesses that currently lose so much female talent.

Progress is being made, with the Davis Report requiring that FTSE 350 boards must state their intentions on their boardroom diversity policy as well as the measures announced by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills requiring companies to report the number of women and men within their organisation, both overall and in senior positions. Both illustrate the positive changes that are occurring, but there is still much more to be done.

Achieving equality in the boardroom is not a women's issue, but a business issue. We will continue to work hard to champion this philosophy and encourage other European countries to follow a similar approach.

Baroness Goudie is a member of the British House of Lords and a founding member of the 30% Club, a group of chairmen voluntarily committed to bringing more women onto UK corporate boards

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