I have just listened to a debate on BBC radio 4’s Today programme about women on boards and quotas following Cameron’s assertion that more women would be good for economic recovery.
I am in favour of quotas. I don’t agree with Karima Serageldin of Ariadne Capital who said on the programme it’s tokenism and things don’t change. Sometimes you have to force people who have the power, who are in charge and have always been in charge, to make a change. They have no real incentive to change (notwithstanding the fact that there is evidence that boards which feature a reasonable balance for women fare better, read this), when doing so means fewer places at the board table for them. Most incumbents will say it’s a good idea to have more women on boards but won’t actually do anything concrete about it. Or take measures that look good on paper but don’t actually cause a real change in numbers, i.e “Look, we’ve got a woman – now leave us alone!”
I do agree with Maggie Pagano, business editor at Independent newspapers who was also on the programme, who said men don’t feel patronised when they have (relatively) easy access to board seats so why should women (I’m paraphrasing her).
The UK government’s threat to bring in quotas wrought a tiny change when announced but complacency and vested interests continue to rule. We have always needed legislation to change unfair and unequal behaviour in society and we need it now.
What do you think?
And if this topic is of interest to you, do take a look at this interview with Dr Judith Baxter who has undertaken some research into women on boards.
Photo Credit: Carl Dwyer
Posted on February 9th, 2012 by Jane