Why Golden Skirts Do Not Help Gender Equality

I am in favour of having quotas for women on boards but I do recognise the inherent problems. Namely, companies are scrabbling to find women to sit on boards and may promote women to them who have insufficient knowledge or experience. This, of course, leads to accusations that women just aren’t good enough and fuels the flames of those resistant to gender equality.

There is also the so-called “golden skirt” problem of a limited number of women sitting on multiple boards. According to the The Telegraph, one Norwegian woman, lawyer Mimi Berdal, 55, at one point sat on  90 different boards. That is clearly tokenism. I’ve just returned from Norway, which does admittedly have a population smaller than London but even so…that’s crazy.

However, businesses here in the UK are being strongly encouraged to increase their female representation by the Government. No one expects companies to find suitable women at the drop of a hat; the process must start much lower down in the company with gender equality being established and honoured at all levels in the business.

I met with a fabulous business recently, where this was most definitely the case. The CEO’s desire had been to create a company where work life balance was good for everyone. It wasn’t something they did just to ‘help women’. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t have a women’s group either because they didn’t need one. They have had no problem in finding women for their boards and have some excellent examples of gender equal practices. I was meeting with the HR Director and, on hearing of their many successful initiatives, began to think they might not be interested in our Changing People programmes, (designed to help businesses boost their numbers of women in management).

I was wrong; they were extremely interested. For, as he said:

“We don’t want to rest on our laurels. We’re always looking for good initiatives and training for our staff. We don’t want to get complacent.”

Advert alert!: If you’re looking for an initiative to get women interested from the ground up, or to add to your existing offerings, then do check out RenewYou. RenewYou will help develop female talent for your management pipeline, and those seats on the board. RenewYou is also offered to individual women at courses around the UK and further afield. This link will tell you more.


Posted on September 9th, 2015 by

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