The Importance of Women on Boards Without Quotas


BaronessGoudieSpeaking Nov 2011

Over the past few months, there has been much discussion about women on boards. Through my role as a founding member of the 30% club, I promote gender equality in the boardroom. This issue has been vigorously driven by EU Commissioner Reding, by the 30% Club, and by the UK commissioned Davis Report, an inquiry to encourage more companies to have women on boards. There is some speculation in opinion as to how this end goal should be achieved. Commissioner Reding is a supporter of quotas, whereas the 30% Club, a group of chairman voluntarily committed to bringing more women onto UK corporate boards, opposes quotas. Instead, the 30% Club supports voluntary change to achieving balanced boards.

The 30% Club believes that quotas are harmful to the ongoing gender debate. We believe that quotas do not work, that they are counter-productive and can be harmful to the development of diversity. We believe that voluntary change is the right approach to achieving a balanced board.

Achieving equality in the boardroom is not a women's issue, but a business issue. There are many powerful arguments for having gender varied boards. One reason is that companies with varied boards deter themselves from the danger of 'groupthink' - psychological phenomenon that occurs within groups in which the desire for harmony with decision-making overrides the realistic appraisal and alternatives. Having women on boards will change the decision making process, would ensure that the pipeline is at optimal function, and would redefine corporate social responsibilities (CSR) policies. Some CSR Policies include projects associated with education, food security and human trafficking policies; issues that women are are often more pro-active in pursuing.

One policy in particular is The Athens Policy, which includes seven principals adopted by a number of companies in January 2006 to combat human trafficking globally. These strategies include corporate procedures for anti-trafficking policies and reports to share information on best practices.

Furthermore, I welcome the British government's recent Business Innovation and Skills Committee inquiry into women in the workplace that was launched this week. Amongst the topics the committee will be considering is whether to promote part-time working at all levels. In this technical age, employees have the benefit of being able to work from home. This committee understands the potential value of advocating for women's full economic and social participation in the workplace. A women's value is one that we should not hesitate to unleash.

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