Does the UK need quotas to increase the number of women on the boards of firms? Please tell us what you think - and vote in our Facebook poll

(201 Posts)
JaneGMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Nov-12 16:09:48


We'd love to hear your opinions on the idea of quotas to increase the number of women on the boards of UK firms.

In the UK, the proportion of female directors at FTSE 100 companies has risen from 12.5% in 2010 to 15% in 2012.

There's some evidence to suggest that quotas may work; in Norway, where quotas were implemented in 2008, the figure rose from 7% on the boards of listed companies in 2003 to 42% in 2012.

So.... do we need quotas to push this figure closer to 50%? Or is it patronising to suggest that they're needed?

We'd love to hear your thoughts.

And we'd love it even more if you could please vote in our Facebook poll about this - it's a simple yes/no question so it'll only take a mo. And we'd be ever so grateful.

Many thanks,


Tee2072 Tue 13-Nov-12 16:18:30

It's patronising to think they are needed. If women are qualified, they will be appointed. If they're not, they shouldn't be appointed just to have women on the boards. I detect a new HQer? hmm?

BelleCurve Tue 13-Nov-12 16:24:06

Yes, we need quotas. 85% female for the next 20 years. After the men have had 200 years, its our turn.

Otherwise you get appointed handmaidens who still have to fit the male criteria, or look decorative to get the job. We need women setting the criteria for board membership.

I'm actually very serious, as long as women are considered optional, or a minority we will never have any actual power. IIRC correctly when 20% quotas were introduced in France, the response from the Chairmen was "fine, send me some photos"!

JaneGMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Nov-12 16:26:34


It's patronising to think they are needed. If women are qualified, they will be appointed. If they're not, they shouldn't be appointed just to have women on the boards. I detect a new HQer? hmm?

Hello Tee, I've been at MNHQ for a few months but am not let loose on the boards too often <waves>.

Thanks both for your answers.

FoxtrotFoxtrotSierra Tue 13-Nov-12 16:31:24

I agree with Tee2072. It is patronising to suggest they're needed. It also would undermine the position of any woman on a board - they would be open to the suggestion that they only got the role because the company needed X number of women on the board. Moreover, a woman being appointed ahead of a better qualified man to do a job as some window dressing is downright wrong.

Surely addressing why so few women are getting to board level is the issue, rather than fixing the outcome.

Miggsie Tue 13-Nov-12 16:32:26

Sadly I think we do need them - recent surveys show that only countries with quotas are anywhere near equality at board level.

I recently passed some very hard assessment days for a senior management position - and was told I was sucessful, then they found I was disabled and the offer was withdrawn as I was suddenly no longer suitable.

They thought a disabled person just "couldn't do the job" and I suspect that if there was inherent sexism at the company I would have been failed earlier as simply being female. This is inherent prejudice, that had nothing to do with my actual ability.

So I think we do need quotas as interview/assessment systems are riddled with interviewers' preconceptions and prejudices. If they see a woman and have an internal script that women are not really committed then they won't appoint you, no matter how good you are.

Endless studies have been done that show that women and men giving the same interview responses and doing the same presentations are judged differently - women are judged mnore harshly and given less credit (all published in the Harvard Business Review over the years). They have also shown that the same CV submitted under different names - male - female- English sounding name- African sounding name will pass thorugh the process with preference given to: is male and English sounding, then female English, then African Man lastly African female.

It just shows that there is a lot of prejudice and the best candidate won't get the job. The candidate judged most like the people doing the interview will get the job. This is why most big companies are woeful in their gender and ethnic diversity.

Kez100 Tue 13-Nov-12 16:35:08

Let's assume there are equal men and woman capable of the job.

There are, then, a certain number of women (far more than men) who decide at some point what they can earn working another hour or under more stress is not worth it for the cost to the family. So they stop and actively choose not to go higher.

So, for that reason, I would expect there to be less women than men at board level and, no, we should not have quotas.

Tee2072 Tue 13-Nov-12 16:38:07

Welcome Jane! They didn't half give you the hard one, did they? grin

StillSquiffy Tue 13-Nov-12 16:43:53

Why do you want our opinions? genuine qn.

Diversity is the bag I'm into, and I have worked with board of big4 and the like looking at this. Currently writing a book on it. Am interested in whether you are taking this kind of thing further in some way.

TiggyD Tue 13-Nov-12 17:00:10

So you mean if you have interviews pick the women who are not as good as the men.
1. There will be women in charge of men who would have been better at the job than the women. That will be uncomfortable for everybody.
2. When you walk into the board room you would meet men who are good at the job and women who are not as good at the job but are there because they're women. You would then respect the opinions of the men more because they are more likely to be there on merit. A bit tough on the women who are there because they're good at the job.

I do a job where only 2% of workers are the same sex as I am. Quotas would in theory benefit me, but in practice would be terrible.

msrisotto Tue 13-Nov-12 17:01:25

It isn't patronising to think that we need them, didn't you see the percentage of women currently working in board level positions? It's pathetic! The fact is that as a sex, we aren't getting an equal shot at these positions, NOT because we aren't good enough but for some other reason.....

Now, the fact that 'we' are generally strong armed into taking the bulk of childcare responsibility, doesn't mean that we are less qualified or able to do well in responsible roles. The fact that these roles are generally full time, isn't our fault and I don't think it has to be this way. Having quotas could change things. Maybe 2 women would decide to part time job share, maybe this would give men the freedom to do the same. We need to break the mould as it isn't working as it is. Not for men who hardly get to see their kids, and not for women who get forced into jobs below their skill level.

msrisotto Tue 13-Nov-12 17:01:55

So, yeah....I think quotas are the way forward. Progress is TOO SLOW as it is. It isn't fair and I want it to change now.

yummymummytobe1 Tue 13-Nov-12 17:05:06

The position of a person within a company should not be based on their gender but rather their ability.

I would be rather offended if I was given a job, when there was an equally qualified man and the deciding factor being our gender.

BelleCurve Tue 13-Nov-12 17:09:48

Thing is, there is already an "unofficial" quota. 85% of positions are given to men because of their sex.

The decision criteria are weighted in favour of men.

It is just not the case that women are less capable or less qualified.

Also, in terms of seniority, it is actually much easier to be flexible in working practices in many senior roles. We need to be the decision makers, not waiting for the men to change the rules which suit them.

StillSquiffy Tue 13-Nov-12 17:19:43

Comment for the last few posters to ponder:-

How do you define 'equally well qualified' when it comes to Board level? I certainly can't answer that myself, despite being at board level myself, because it is about a whole host of skills that can't always be objectively measured.

Here's an example for you:- two lists of skills:-
1) Team management, ability to manage clients, ability to deliver results, mentoring of staff, effective management skills, strong control principles, stays calm under pressure
2) Rapid decision-making, negotiation skills, networking skills, leadership skills, sales skills, enjoys working under pressure

What happens when you get MEN rating people who are then presented with two people one displaying a set of skills from list (1) and one representing skills from list (2). Here's a clue about what happens: they do not select objectively. Supported time and time again by research.

(By the way, if you don't have a mix of both sets the mgmt team is not diversified and research shows this leads generally to cock-ups. google 'bay of pigs' for more depth on that)

(Another by the way: the skills in (1) are more typically seen in the bell curve of female behaviours, the skills in (2) are more typically seen in the bell curve of male behaviours)

I like the Caitlin Moran view of why quotas are actually a good idea. For some reason Google isn't helping me find a good quote, but i think I read a pithy summary on her last MN webchat so someone could link to that.

See, I wouldn't get on the board due to my laziness in finding that quote.....

but I do think quotas would work

MordionAgenos Tue 13-Nov-12 17:26:10

Squiffy Are you going to the Women in Finance fast track to corporate board positions event on December 7th? I was invited but I can't go - already accepted an invitation to another event (it's that time of year clearly).

Smudging Tue 13-Nov-12 17:27:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

I'm against quotas for any reason. Too many people will be accused of getting the job because of the quota rather than because they are the best person for the job. I would rather not get the job in the first place than know that I only got t because I was a woman.

specialmagiclady Tue 13-Nov-12 17:37:19

The position of a person within a company should not be based on their gender but rather their ability.

I would be rather offended if I was given a job, when there was an equally qualified man and the deciding factor being our gender.

I agree. And until this stops being opinion and becomes fact, we need quotas.

specialmagiclady Tue 13-Nov-12 17:37:52

Sorry, the second part is fact, but it's the man that gets it, not the woman.

Ellypoo Tue 13-Nov-12 17:40:34

I totally agree with foxtrotfoxtrotsierra and yummymummytobe1.

I think quotas would weaken the position of women on boards - board members, as with any other employee, should be appointed on merit, not anything else. Otherwise, it is discrimination. If I were to be appointed to a board (incidentally, I am board level), I would want it to be because I had earnt it, not because there was a quota.

That said though, my thoughts are obviously based in an ideal world, not the real, corporate world, and this obviously isn't how it works. But it should be.

Not hugely helpful, but I don't think forcing quotas are a great idea. I know something needs to be done to break the 'old school ties' and 'old boy network' that seems to be the norm on corporate boards, but I don't necessarily think that quotas are the answer.

Study after study have shown that the most effective and successful boards have a decent mixture of people and genders.

StillSquiffy Tue 13-Nov-12 17:44:05

Mordion: Ruth Sealy is quite an interesting speaker but I am not at all convinced by the 'Cranfield' approach that I have seen at the three similar seminars that I have attended over the last few years (and which I think will be the dominant one). I suspect the session will focus on what women should think about doing 'better' in order to make the same impact as men when it comes to shining in front of the board decision-makers.

Here's what I think will happen: There will be a chat about networking and how to use networks politically instead of emotionally. Then they'll talk about selling yourself up instead of down. Then they'll talk about showcasing your skills effectively and making sure other people know who you are and sell you (especially if you are in a field where you can 'publish' things. They may even wander into how to steer yourself into the board roles that men are more comfortable seeing the women go into (HR, Finance, Legal). Finally they will tell you to over-aim, rather than under-aim and to most definitely not be put off by rejection.

And at each of those points I would be frothing at the bit, because I am so against that type of approach it makes me frankly furious that otherwise intelligent people buy into a concept where they look at the gender imbalance and try to change the victim, rather than the underlying problem.

If anyone does attend the event on the 7th, I would love to know how close I get with my predictions.

MordionAgenos Tue 13-Nov-12 17:44:20

We definitely need quotas. I am beyond fed up of being the only woman in a room of 15-20 men. Most of whom are not only less well qualified to be there than me but less well qualified than other women I know who could be there and should be there but aren't.

HeathRobinson Tue 13-Nov-12 17:46:27

Yes, we need quotas.

MordionAgenos Tue 13-Nov-12 17:52:07

Squiffy I don't have a problem with overaiming - one of my most overused phrases is 'let's live a little'. And I don't have a problem with showcasing one's skills to their best advantage, whether that is to showcase them in an absolute way or showcase them in a relative way (this is why what I do well would benefit you event if you might not realise this at first). But other than that I agree with you - it's all very let's play by their rules so they let us into their game. Something I really don't believe in and have never done. But I am completely and utterly fine with quotas. That is how we might change the game rather than twiddle with the rules.

wishingchair Tue 13-Nov-12 18:00:46

Quotas would only work if they are meaningful. So it needs to be a lot more than x% of the board need to be women, otherwise you'll just get token women in nonsense specially created "board" level positions and they still won't be in the highest paid, most strategic roles.

I would want to be appointed on merit and the value I can bring to the team.

Plus as the Tory party have discovered, you need to have a well-stocked pipeline before you can start meeting the quota you have set yourself. If a company has not developed its female employees, and there are no board-ready women, a quota is going to be pointless. The worst thing would be to appoint a woman to the board who wasn't ready simply because they had to, and for her to fail.

We have targets of the number of people in middle and senior level positions and who is being promoted into those positions. We monitor that by gender, and in the US by race. That gives a good indication of the state of your future talent pipeline, and where you need to focus your attention as a Company.

drcrab Tue 13-Nov-12 18:19:59

What wishingchair said.

FrillyMilly Tue 13-Nov-12 18:24:26

I agree that it could undermine a woman position on a board but what alternative do we have? How do we get more women on the board without the quotas? There are endless studies but nothing gets done. We get the boards 50/50 and show everyone how well it works and how women can parent and run companies just as well as all the dads who have been doing it all these years.

I work for a FTSE 100 company that is male dominated. The old fashioned attitude I come across every day is ridiculous. I have openly said my career goal is to be a director but people assume I'm joking. We need to make it clear that women can and do want a career not a part time job because we can't afford to stay at home. Its assumed women dont want to or cant be high up in a company because they have child commitments. With all the technology available to us I don't see why it's not possible to do both, for both men and women.

wanderingalbatross Tue 13-Nov-12 18:28:49

In Norway, quotas worked to do what? It's not really a surprise that the number of female board members rose after quotas were introduced, but how much has the perception of women shifted? Would the numbers stay high of quotas were removed?

That said, I bet that many men are currently selected for top positions because of their gender. Would love to hear alternatives to quotas though - are there any other ideas?

MrsMargoLeadbetter Tue 13-Nov-12 18:35:10

We need quotas, all the noise about equality to date hasn't worked. I fail to see what choice we have.

As Wishingchair says it isn't just about leaving a % of seats open for women. There needs to be support to help move 'board ready' women onto boards now and to support the talent pipeline. And there needs to be an acceptance that new approaches to board development/recruitment might be needed. Despite lots of talk of Good Governance, I am sure that a good % of board recruitment is through the old boy network.

I have respect for which is trying to persuade the largest companies to voluntarily increase females on their board, I just don't think it is enough.

NorthernNumpty Tue 13-Nov-12 18:37:30

I don't agree with quotas. The best person for the job should get the job. What needs to change is the perception and criteria for who is the best person for the job. There are too many outdated attitudes out there about what makes the 'right' person. Those attitudes inevitably favour men.

MainlyMaynie Tue 13-Nov-12 18:39:35

A bit simpler than quotas, but we live abroad and when DH applied for a job here it was a requirement that one of his referees be female. I thought that was a pretty good, quick and simple way of starting to make some inroads into old boys networks.

I think there could be problems with quotas, you just have to look at the imposition of all-women shortlists to see you have to be very careful not to create other issues.

LadyStark Tue 13-Nov-12 18:46:04

Ooh is this for a panel Justine is on soon? DP going to event and I think is involved in some way.

What I would really like to see is more female CEOs, there are now just two women who are CEOs of FTSE100 companies.

I'm really torn, I'm pro quotas as I can't see it changing without them. I also share concerns about perception of women who've got the job just because they're women.

I also think whilst it is all well and good to look at FTSE CEOs actually pipeline is crucial. Why does the talent pool shrink? (women having children) and how can we prevent this having such a huge impact? Looking at challenges earlier in someone's career is really important.

I went to an event on this recently hosted by Politeia which was fascinating - one of the other things that came from this was the rate at which women start businesses, far fewer women launching businesses than men (although can't remember exact stat).

bealos Tue 13-Nov-12 18:51:24

The most oft hear excuse for lack of women (not just on boards, as speakers at events, in the public eye - see recent BBC Radio 4 Today programme) is that 'they couldn't find anyone suitably qualified'.

I think it's fair to say that there are lots of qualified women out there, but perhaps not in the immediate pool of people that they are looking in.

Quotas mean that people are forced to look outside their 'usual circles' (read: old boys clubs) to find people who are interesting and qualified.

No-one is suggesting that a woman should be hired on tokenism. That would be shit.

bealos Tue 13-Nov-12 18:54:24

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LadyStark Tue 13-Nov-12 18:59:54

Here's my tweets from the event I went to recently if you're interested, I think they touch on some of the interesting points in the debate.

"we need more women running businesses, not just being non-execs, non-execs don't run the company" Sarah Sands

"let's name and shame the companies that aren't working, let's make it embarrassing not to have women in top jobs" Sarah Sands

"highly corrosive if people believe someone is only on a board because of mandatory quotas" Helen Brand, ACCA - countered by a member of the audience pointing out that it's highly corrosive not having women on boards at all!

The stat I was looking for... "women start businesses at half the rate that men do" Harriet Baldwin MP

"not just a glass ceiling, it's a glass labyrinth. There are blockages for women at every level"

Possibly my favourite quote - "we should have the confidence to be as average as men"

montana50 Tue 13-Nov-12 19:00:18

Although it may not seem popular, whenever trying to achieve change where prejudice is the issue the law has to get involved. And it is not because women are not capable that they are not making the boards of these companies, it is because they are often not seen as the right 'fit' in the organisation at board level. The only way to change this is to really challenge organisations to change from inside and they will only do this if forced to.

bealos Tue 13-Nov-12 19:08:12

“If women were more encouraged to set up businesses, it would add £60bn to the economy.” (The Guardian, 1/5/12)

blondieminx Tue 13-Nov-12 19:14:40

I agree with MrsMargo

No, we shouldn't need quotas but voluntary targets have achieved bugger all and it's about time businesses started to select board members from a broader candidate base.. Which I think they will have to be required to do! This will in turn force companies to think about their "pipeline".

maillotjaune Tue 13-Nov-12 19:28:32

I don't really like the idea of quotas but I can't see any other way to get the women who should be in senior positions there.

This isn't about appointing women who aren't up to the job - the point being that the best candidates are often missing out already because they are women.

Agree with the previous post that you need to start with middle management getting them board ready. My company was acquired by a US giant a few years ago and although this has been a pain in many respects, their leadership programme has visibly increased the number of women in senior positions. Many of them have children and, unsurprisingly, they are perfectly capable of organising childcare that allows their full commitment to their roles at work.

Sadly this attitude is missing in many companies and they won't do it voluntarily.

mrscog Tue 13-Nov-12 19:41:18

I'm not sure about quotas but something should be done - I would be in favour of slow 'tweaks' first to see if it made any difference - if, after 3 years no progress had been made then I would be more welcoming of quotas. The kind of 'tweaks' I'm thinking of are - like mainly said above is that you need a reference from a woman as well as a man, maybe interview panels should be made up of 50:50 as well (I don't think you necessarily need everyone on an interview panel to be board level - someone senior management level should be more than qualified to interview and make judgments).

drcrab Tue 13-Nov-12 19:42:17

I think quotas without a pipeline of middle/senior female managers to take over is pointless. There needs to be succession planning and it should include both men and women.

Research shows that when asked to genderise words that are typically associated with leaders, people tend to also associate them with men. If you look at job ads ESP in the ft and the like, the words they use to describe a senior director's role appeal to men more than women. So we need to use more neutral words in ads.

Even women themselves tend to think less of themselves and talk themselves out of a promotion. Some high ranking woman told me once that men tick 2/10 boxes and think they are supermen and should be promoted. Women tick 9/10 and say 'oh dear I'll wait till next year!'

Think it has to do with the organizational structures so things like having enough women to mentor the junior women. So it's 'normal' to see women at the top so to speak. It's got to do with changing things like parental leave to include both parties. To change the work culture that staying late is the norm. Demonstrating that we allow flexible working for both genders do its not just mummy leaving early to pick DCs up its daddy too. And it's also senior director daddy doing it.

Government has to do their bit too. Changing legislation to make these things the norm rather than the 'mummy track'. I hate the fact that there are so many women who go part time AND give the reason as children (I have nothing against that btw) but not as many men. I know 3 men in my circle of friends; one is a sahd to 2 kids, one works part time by choice to 3 kids, one works In the evenings so does pick up drop off and homework.

I find that so refreshing.

Yes, quotas are sorely needed. Until there are a good proportion of women in every boardroom, the Old Boy's clubs will remain in force, going to strip clubs or hiring in prostitutes for Board functions will remain accepted practice, and women will not be allowed in for fear of spoiling all this fun the boys are having.

I can't see any other way to break down the patriarchal and sexist way the higher echilons of most large corporations are run.

There are many, many qualified women out there who aren't getting to high positions simply because they are women. And plently of men are making to the boardroom because they are men. The quotas won't have to last forever, just long enough for some serious adjustment to the current sexist attitude of business, where women are for decoration and service, not valued colleagues.

I once spoke to someone who is in a country with quotas.. He said that instead of women of less capability being promoted above men in order to fulfill the quota, what actually happened was that knowing that quotas would need to be filled, women with potential lower down the ranks were identified early and encouraged in the same way that men have been for years.

I am pro quotas

FrillyMilly Tue 13-Nov-12 19:51:40

Drcrab what reason would you like them to give for going part time? I'm working part time at the moment due to cost of child care. Where I work you can only apply for part time or flexible hours if you have children. I would happily work full time if I could make up the hours at home but it's not an option given to us at the moment. Things such as these would help keep women in the work force and continue up the career ladder.

janeyjampot Tue 13-Nov-12 19:58:37

I am not in favour of quotas because I find them patronising. I would hate to give anyone the opportunity to imply that a woman was not equal in ability to others on a board because she was there to satisfy the quota requirements.

To me, this is about aspiration as much as about ability. If we were better at identifying talent at an earlier stage, we could build aspiration and expectation in women (and of course this isn't just about women but rather about the whole diversity agenda). Too few women expect to be board members, but if they knew they had the potential to reach this level in their twenties they could build their expectations and organisations could ensure that their leadership potential was developed.

I took drcrab's post to mean she would like to see childcare becoming seen to be more of an equal responsibility of both parents, with both men and women taking on flexible working and going part-time, so that doing so ceases to have more a negative impact on the careers of women and men.

I would agree with others who say that introducing boardroom quotas alone isn't the answer - sexist stereotypes and expectations need to be challenged and broken down right from entry-level jobs. I think a lot of that will come with men taking on long-term paternity leave, childcare and part-time roles. But how do we get more men to embrace this when it may put their careers at risk in the same way that it currently does to women?

SundaeGirl Tue 13-Nov-12 20:05:55

I have heard women who make it on to high profile boards saying that there just isn't the time for them to turn down all the job offers they receive - they are so in demand. Those FTSE100 boards are high profile and they'd love the PR of having women at senior level. IMO it's further down when women are starting out in management roles when all the bad handling and prejudice is doing so much damage.

Women who are in their 30s/early 40s and juggling home life and work are simply not cut any slack and are often actively persecuted. Neither are men, of course, but women seem less prepared to take it if they don't have to. And why should they?

I'm pro-quotas but it should be time limited legislation - like 20 years or something - because in the end private companies should really be able to hire who they like. However, a short-term intervention does seem needed.

Please can we start with the Army? And the judiciary? And the police? I'm pretty sick of the public funding quite such sexist organisations.

drcrab Tue 13-Nov-12 20:16:50

Sorry frilly yes it was as how annie read it. That I want to see equal numbers of men and women using childcare as the reason to 'go part time'. I know a guy who proudly said oh I can't go part time, I am the higher earner. Well yes, that's because his wife was made redundant and settled for the first job that came along to pay the bills!!

PPPop Tue 13-Nov-12 20:36:37

Quotas are treating the symptoms, not the cause, IMHO.
The real issue is supporting women on the way up to the top, which is where many (most) organisations fall short, no matter what their policies on diversity may suggest <speaks from bitter experience>

notenoughsocks Tue 13-Nov-12 20:51:03

I am all in favour of quotas.

I realise that there are real, undeniable problems with quotas. However, we have spent decades (not me that is the sisterhood 'we' - I am not that old) conceeding sensible points and arguments and suggesting sensible and reasonable alternatives. It has not got us very far.

So yes to quotas. It is not a perfect solution. But it might bring about changes which so far have largely failed to occur in any meaningful sense. I personally don't think of it as patronising.

Yes, I do think that quotas would force the issue and actually ensure the changes that companies claim to be making

notenoughsocks Tue 13-Nov-12 20:55:25

We should have the confidence to be as average as men.


I remember hearing somebody on Woman's Hour saying that, in her experience, one of the surest ways to put women off of applying for a job was to advertise a high salary. Lots of men who weren't properly qualified would usually put themselves forward whereas women tended to take the job spec quite seriously and only apply if they were reasonably sure they could fufill all the criteria well.

msrisotto Tue 13-Nov-12 20:55:33

What are the other options? Sitting and waiting for society to change naturally? 5% every 2 years?

FrillyMilly Tue 13-Nov-12 20:59:07

Ah right I see drcrab and yes I agree with you. It would be nice if we as a society could see men as equally responsible for childcare. There is no shame in a man going part time. Unfortunately due to the male often being the higher earner it is the women who end up part time, as is the case in my situation.

onemorebite Tue 13-Nov-12 21:03:36

Yes - definitely need quotas. Boards are a self-selecting club. They want men who look and act like they do. So they think women don't have the necessary qualities - failing to recognise the enormous talents of the women around them.

I also think it suits men to make it difficult for women to get on to boards. Each woman that steps aside, drops out or even sets up her own business is another less competitor.

MavisG Tue 13-Nov-12 21:04:45

Read as far as Miggsie's post. Agree totally with her (yes to quotas, there's evidence that recruiters recruit in their own image rather than select the best, prejudice is racial & ablist too).

MavisG Tue 13-Nov-12 21:05:32

Oh & Miggsie I am really sorry they did this, it's outrageous.

amillionyears Tue 13-Nov-12 21:30:31

How is childcare done in Norway.
More daddycare or more nurseries?

Nosleeptillgodknowswhen Tue 13-Nov-12 21:35:29

notenoughsocks your quote reminds me of a similar one about my employer - a high up female once said 'we will have equality when our committees are 50% female and half of those women are completely ineffective.'

Nosleeptillgodknowswhen Tue 13-Nov-12 21:36:54

Oh and i am for quotas - i think there has to be a proactive way to increase the number of women on boards (i sit on 3 company boards and am the only female on 2 of these).

TalkinPeace2 Tue 13-Nov-12 21:58:26

Quotas would be great
but the bigger issue is that company boardrooms are jobs for the boys and their wives.
When people like Lady Judge have over 30 directorships, that is NOT good for either those boardrooms OR other women.

There are lots and lots of MN posters who would make excellent part time Non Exec directors for their former companies
but sadly the recruitment teams do not realise they are in a box let alone thinking outside it.
The headhunting firms are run for and by twenty something men.

The second issue is "presenteeism"
My sister is a director of a nationally known company. The pressure on her to not be home in time to collect her son from Nursery is intense.
And yet before she had him I watched her produce the same report three times as she kept coming up with the (correct) answer the top bod did not like.

Companies of all sizes have to learn that being at desks for silly testosterone fuelled hours may not be best for their company.

Lets start with the non execs - once every board has a variety of women around even if they work part time, the attitude will change.

herethereandeverywhere Tue 13-Nov-12 22:00:50

Starting out in my career (city law, corporate - so much experience of "the Boardroom" and how few women, if any, are in most of them) I would have said "no" to quotas - promote strictly on merit, you'll never be treated as an equal whilst you ask for special treatment etc.

However, I now support quotas, for the reason given by MavisG. In the partnership I work in, the men always promote those "made in their own image" and grooming for partnership starts early, so they are mentored in a way that the women are not. - This "old boys club" attitude is as prevalent in the boardrooms as in the City firms (if not more so).

Women often do well early in their careers as male superiors see them as a "safe pair of hands" or a "reliable workhorse". They're effectively seen as the "wife" who stays in the office and makes all the dreary sh*t happen, working really fking hard with lots of attention to detail required. We believe that all this hard work and positive feedback is affirmation that we're doing all the right things to be promoted into the top tier (partnership/board level). The men on the other hand are out rainmaking - getting closer to the clients, watching how deals are put together etc. being assured that they don't need to worry too much about the detail (those reliable women will see to that!) And women end up making themselves indispensable at the rank below board/partner, where most of us work until our biological clock tells us to get a move on with having kids. Trying to combine motherhood with the intensity of work required to stay at that level is nigh-on impossible (ironically, once you get to partnership/board level you're given much more freedom to flex your working to suit yourself). It is at this stage that women see they've actually been on a parallel track to the men in the business and whilst the men are knocking on a door which keeps opening, the women have worked themselves into a dead end. Unsurprisingly there is huge attrition of women from big business and the city at this point.

On top of this some businesses (such as my ex-employer) are making having children even more difficult by doing things such as 1)making it clear that leaving the office (at your contracted time) to collect your child every day is "not acceptable" - even though you work from home for several further hours and 2) changing maternity policy so that if you have less than a 2 year age gap you will not get enhanced maternity pay for the 2nd period of absence, only statutory - hardly 21st century and female friendly. Yes, this is my experience of a law firm and not a company but city professionals who go on to work client-side are (or should be) prime high calibre candidates for positions.

herethereandeverywhere Tue 13-Nov-12 22:06:32

should say "prime high calibre candidates for board positions".

Agree with Talkinpeace2 re: presenteeism.

To those who say that quotas will devalue the achievements of women already in the boardroom - I agree.


I imagine that women who are currently in boardrooms had to make many more sacrifices and work considerably harder than any man on the same board. It is completely unreasonable that a) they had to do so and b) any new women coming onto those boards would have to do the same. While a small proportion of women may have these extraordinary skills and dedication, most do not. Nor do their male counterparts. So sadly, these women may well find their achievements devalued, but we cannot hold back thousands or even millions of ordinary women from reaching the top just to uphold the extraordinary efforts of a very few.

TalkinPeace2 Tue 13-Nov-12 22:22:05

When I was qualifying as an accountant, all the partners in the firm were divorced freemasons.
neither an aspiration for me setting up home with DH, nor actually possible for the female staff.

MNHQ : the simplest start is that every company seeking new non exec directors should be FORCED to look among its female ex employees
of all grades and backgrounds
BEFORE going to the nice men in suits agencies ....

if there are no suitable women, so be it, but they have to go and look rather than expect us to knock at their door.

and stop having all the interviews in central London clashing with the effing school run!
(I've looked at a few vacancy sites on Linkedin)

Silibilimili Tue 13-Nov-12 22:29:54

Its a sad situation but it is very much a mans world out there.

The answer is not so simple either though. You need the right 'quality' of women to be in the forefront. Not just a dummy someone has put there to fill the quota.

I have seen the quota system not work when used for promoting ethnic minorities in non uk countries. Those sometimes backfire too.

its a tricky question and the answer is not so simple as no or yes.

I think the key is to empower women. This means easier and cheaper access to child care and elderly care.

Better laws that allow one to be REALLY flexible at work to be able to continue a high profile career.

Hmmm. I am going to have to think about this one and come back to answer.

edam Tue 13-Nov-12 22:45:54

There are plenty of over-promoted, lower quality people filling boardrooms right now. They are called men. Unless you seriously believe men are naturally cleverer and wiser, the male domination of boardrooms logically means more able women are being squeezed out by less able men. That is not good for business, not good for the economy and not good for society.

Asking nicely has got us nowhere. We need action. Quotas would allow companies to replace some of these timeservers with bright, effective women.

TalkinPeace2 Tue 13-Nov-12 22:50:34


Early in my career I would have said no, but two decades later I have seen too much to continue sitting on my hands waiting for this situation to change. it won't.

Those who say, 'if the women are good enough, they will get the positons' are really a bit naive, I'm sorry to say. I used to think that was the case, but it is NOT. There are companies full of capable high-achieving women, that still have men only boards, or a lone woman because they think that ticks a box.

This situation has stayed the same for too long now. It will not change without intervention. Quotas are needed. Unquestionably.

Those of you saying 'if the women aren't good enough, they shouldn't be on the board' have obviously never sat in a room full of fellow company directors and felt dismayed at the lack of basic business competence that surrounds you in male form. Boardrooms are full of arrogant men who would never dream of questioning whether or not they have the necessary skills to be there - and many frankly don't. If you are going to apply that statement to the women, for gods sake apply to the men too - that would clear a bit of space around the table! grin

I think quotas are required and are a good idea.

As other posters have said, men have had the upper hand for too long. While they dominate the board rooms, they continue to select similar people for board vacancies I.e. other men. Until the balance of power is challenged forcibly, the decision making process will continue to be biased towards men.

I think the other benefit of getting more women onto boards is that it can change the culture of those companies. For example, I believe it would set an example to women further down the structure to show them what is possible and it would start to address the issues preventing women progressing to board positions.

This would help ensure that women in future would be more able to progress to board positions 'naturally' without quotas being required.

I don't believe quotas would be required permanently, just until a natural equilibrium has been found and sustained.

What I'm not sure about is what percentage the quotas should be set at.

NaiceAm Tue 13-Nov-12 22:58:42

Herethereandeverywhere, I am sitting here trying to work out how to approach my review tomorrow and how to deal with my anger at getting passed over for opportunities yet again in favour of my male colleagues at a city law firm. What you wrote has struck a cord.

Until there is a level playing field (which requires a shift in attitudes and better childcare opportunities), we should have quotas and a proper open debate about female attrition. It is not that women wimp out. I don't want to bleat about sexism in the workplace and nor do I want to blame hitting what is effectively a glass ceiling...but sexism is endemic albeit increasingly unconscious/insidious.

MavisG Tue 13-Nov-12 23:02:47

50% Haven't, surely?

herethereandeverywhere Tue 13-Nov-12 23:20:06

I would LOVE a non-exec role or three. I'd be fking ace at it.

garlicbaguette Wed 14-Nov-12 00:41:02

I'm heavily in favour of quotas. I'm pissed off that they're needed, but voluntary balancing hasn't worked. It's naive to say women would be on the boards if they were good enough - well, either naive or sexist.

Want2bSupermum Wed 14-Nov-12 01:05:09

I think quotas are a terrible idea. Why are women not making it to board level in the UK?

1 - Childcare costs make it prohibitive for both parents to continue working during the early years.
2 - Maternity leave of 1 year for each child kills a career. Three children in five years results in one being out of the workplace for too long.
3 - Lack of women participating in management training programs (ie top flight MBA programs)
4 - Women in more senior roles not helping the next generation progress their careers (Thatcher was the worst for this).
5 - Lack of aspiration to develop a career in the workplace. I say this as someone who went to a top 50 school. Some of the girls were very bright but had not motivation to be running a company. They wanted to be married to the person running a company.

Address these main issues and I think you will see the proportion of women on boards increase. There needs to be a cultural shift and I dont think quotas are the right way to go about spearheading such a shift.

MavisG Wed 14-Nov-12 05:09:29

But Want2Be, why does 3 years off in 5 years but out of 45- 50 years kill a career? It doesn't in Scandinavia, but both men & women do it there. A year wasn't enough for me/my child; I walked away from my brilliant job because of it & lots of others do the same. Not saying it's the 'right' way to do things but plenty of women feel that way, even if it shocks them when they do (it did me, big time).

MavisG Wed 14-Nov-12 05:16:51

Oh and to answer my own question, I think it's related to the recruiting in your own image thing: if you took a career break/long mat leave(s) & got back into the swing of your career again you know that it can be done, efficiently and has benefits as well as disadvantages. If you can't imagine taking that time out it feels more worrying.
If as a culture we didn't write off careers after mat leave/childrearing breaks schoolgirls might feel more motivated, women might do more MBAs, fathers might take their half of the leave, the break, the family responsibility. And child are costs would not then affect women disproportionately.

MavisG Wed 14-Nov-12 05:18:02

*childcare costs

Knowsabitabouteducation Wed 14-Nov-12 05:19:09

It's patronising.

HesterBurnitall Wed 14-Nov-12 05:45:48

I'd rather be patronised than excluded from consideration because I don't fit the mold.

Let's face it there are great men and decidedly average men, not to mention incompetent men and corrupt men, filling our boardrooms already. Their unofficial quota works a treat. They're not even required to be the most special ever.

msrisotto Wed 14-Nov-12 06:21:25

To those saying 'address these issues without quotas' - how?

Want2bSupermum Wed 14-Nov-12 06:42:32

mavis I am in a client facing role. In my experience the issue isn't so much to do with the employer but with clients. In my case I had four clients who requested someone else be assigned as my absence was going to be longer than a month. Without clients you have no business so my employer went with the clients wishes and assigned someone else. When I returned I had to go out and find clients to work on. It was really tough as I went from having a nice roster of clients to having the crappy clients that no one else wanted. I was then seen as disposable and was subsequently disposed of.

In the companies I have worked for it is the people in client facing roles that get into senior positions where gaining a place on a board of directors is a possibility.

MordionAgenos Wed 14-Nov-12 07:35:37


*1 - Childcare costs make it prohibitive for both parents to continue working during the early years.
2 - Maternity leave of 1 year for each child kills a career. Three children in five years results in one being out of the workplace for too long.
3 - Lack of women participating in management training programs (ie top flight MBA programs)
4 - Women in more senior roles not helping the next generation progress their careers (Thatcher was the worst for this).
5 - Lack of aspiration to develop a career in the workplace. I say this as someone who went to a top 50 school. Some of the girls were very bright but had not motivation to be running a company. They wanted to be married to the person running a company.*

And yet many of us who are at board level or equivalent think that quotas are necessary. As for your points:

1. Not for successful professional women
2. I don't agree with the Xenia approach of taking only 5 minutes mat leave but by the same token it isn't necessary to take 1 full year for each child. I had 3 children in 5 years and I took just over a year in total. But I also worked flexibly each time I went back. And I was smart - I moved jobs during that time to reduce, you know, the impact (and then moved jobs again when my child bearing was done)
3. Loads of women do MBAs. MBAs are however somewhat overrated.
4. There aren't enough senior women to be very helpful to most other women. But it's a bit rich to blame thatcher who has been gone for >20 years (hooray)
5. Some women are like this yes but then, there are plenty of low aspiration men.

MordionAgenos Wed 14-Nov-12 07:57:19

@knowsabit (?) why is it not patronising for the many inadequate men who are at board level or equivalent (partner or director in a professional partnership for example) primarily because of their gender?

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 08:20:00

I am a bloke and I used to think that quotas are patronising and women who are good enough will get on to Boards on their own merits.

I was wrong. I now strongly believe there should be quotas. Women dont get onto Boards purely and simply because they are women. I am very close to this issue in my work and I know the experience first hand with three extremely well qualified women who should be sat on Boards but who have got nowhere even though theyhave tried hard and even been to interviews. There is always a reason such as lack of experience or too operational - but teh reality is they are just women but the selection panel cant say that.

I also know very well that there ar emen sat on Boards who are frankly useless and only got their position because of who they know. The number of male Board directors who sit on multiple Boards with each other is very obvious.

The lack of women on Boards damages firms and it damages the economy. The best people are not getting the Board positions. Pure and simple.

One final thing. If we do have quotas I dont want to see the same token tiny group of women being invited onto multiple Boards. I firmly believe nobody should be allowed to be a Director on more than two Boards. If we have quotas we have to avoid token women (eg ex politicians) being invited onto non exec Boards to make up the numbers. Women have to have serious management roles.

AuntLucyInTransylvania Wed 14-Nov-12 08:26:44

There is a well documented phenomena that recruiters tend to pick people 'just like me' at interview. So assuming board positions are recruited by existing members, then the status quo will persist - men appointing more men.

Maybe instead look to propose:

Both genders always represented on the board (no fixed proportions) and
Both genders always represented on the interview short list and
Both genders always represented on the interviewing panel of decision makers.

One woman on the board would fulfil criteria 1 (albeit she'll soon be sick to death of interviewing); criteria 2 doesn't disadvantage men or women (if anyone is at interview for 'tokenism' them they won't get appointed anyway', and criteria 3 negates the 'status quo' problem. Solved grin

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 08:37:29

AuntLucy - yes recruiters do pick in their own image and most Board positions are selected for through recruitment consultants and the agency will alway select shortlists on the basis that they know putting forward a woman is 'risky'.

Recruitment consultants are a big part of perpetuating the bias. They earn a commisison by putting forward candidates that have a high chance of being selected and guess what - they choose candidates that are 'safe'. In other words they choose, white male candidates who are already on a Board.

that is v interesting about recruitment consultants morebeta

FrillyMilly Wed 14-Nov-12 08:43:50

Why is it assumed most women have no aspiration? Perhaps the lack of flexibility after having children and the constant 'oh you aren't going back are you' 'oh I couldn't have my kids brought up my someone else' comments from other people and the lack of affordable childcare kills off the aspirations they had. I think unless we can somehow change people's views that they understand dads can do childcare, working from home doesn't mean you watch Jeremy Kyle in your pjs, women have drive and using childcare does not lead to feral children we need quotas. It's much easier to introduce quotas than change our attitudes. It seems to me that women are the only group of people that its ok to stereotype. I've worked with plenty of men who have no drive whatsoever but this isn't applied to all men.

bealos Wed 14-Nov-12 08:55:15

I am on two non-exec boards. They are totally mixed gender, age and experience. I think it's the sector that is better at female representation - basically arts/culture. I've never been invited by anyone outside this sector to sit on a board.

ZombieOnABicycle Wed 14-Nov-12 09:11:56

I think quotas are incredibly patronising and will do more damage to women being viewed as equals.

If women want to be on boards - then work for it and get there under your own steam, so no one can accuse you of window dressing.

My DP is the SAHP and I work FT, I've worked very hard to get the position I hold and would be very pissed off if anyone even suggested I got there by anything other than my own hard work (and amazing support from my soon to be DH)

MordionAgenos Wed 14-Nov-12 09:20:26

@Zombie I too got where I am today by my own hard work (not really, I think I've fluked my way up the career ladder to be honest). But I look around me and I see I am surrounded by men (many of them not that great) with nary a woman in sight. And most of the men are a bit rubbish. And I see women in my organisation and in other organisations who would be better than (some of) those men. And now I can see that unless things change, they will never get there - because now, from my vantage point, I see how the system works to keep them down. And I'm fed up of being the only woman in the room almost all the time. I'd like to see more. And quotas for board members will be one way to achieve this. And I can't see another one.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 09:26:56

Zombie - you have clearly worked very hard and you are unfortunately part of the exception that proves the rule. There are far to many very well qualified women like you who are blocked though. You have been fortunate in not meeting that resistance but just because you have not been blocked does not mean there is not a problem.

It only takes one man in a powerful position to stop a woman's career dead in its tracks. The numbers speak for themselves - there are a tiny number of women on Boards and even fewer in positions of real power in executive Board positions.

Look I have spent a lot of time around men when women are not around and I know how men talk about women and in senior management positions. It is very common for men in senior management positions to stand around a bar after work talking about women in the most degrading and misogynist way imaginable.

The discrimination against women at that level of firms is real and intense.

senua Wed 14-Nov-12 09:37:42

The personal is political. Vote with your feet. And other such clichés. grin

I don't really care about the board structure of FTSE100 companies because I don't want to work for a FTSE100 company. I've worked for them in the past and i don't like their male mindset structure.
I now work for a SME (as do the vast majority of workers in the UK) with a 50/50 split on the board. The 50/50 is DH and me!
Why do you want to climb to the top of someone else's company?

cheeseandpineapple Wed 14-Nov-12 09:49:43

As things stand, imposing equal numbers on the Boards of major companies could be disasterous. A balance is needed but as someone said earlier, the cause of the imbalance needs to be addressed.

If it's just about getting equal numbers on a Board, then the quick fix is a quota. But the risk is impact on quality, efficiency and effectiveness, in the absence of a whole bunch of other quick fixes.

Eg a need for shared child care initiatives for both parents. Scandinavian countries offer this in addition to the quotas. Plus, flexible working practices and more accessible, affordable child care options eg on site for major companies. More commercial and business training early on, to encourage big picture strategic thinkers.

How do we ensure we get these?

There are an equal number (if not higher) of women at graduate level and junior/mid level roles but not at senior level. As things stand, women are not as motivated to develop their careers because of the sheer hardship of juggling it all. For those who are motivated, it may come at a greater price for women then men. The vast majority of women have children at some stage, I think it's 80% from a BBC stat I once saw, so this affects most women.

This is an ongoing vicious cycle. The real question for me, is how do we ensure women who don't want to compromise their career path can maintain their career and take it to the top? These are the women who should be at the top if they wish to and they have the skills. The percentages are pretty immaterial if we know that the women who wish to achieve, have a level playing field with their male counterparts.

Rather than quotas at Board level, I would be interested in the possibility of quotas at entry level and middle management for major companies where there are a certain number of employees or the company is listed. Given there are equal if not higher levels of female graduates, most companies may have equal numbers in the early days. So why make it mandatory if its already happening lower down?

I think it may need to be mandatory to ensure no risk to the levels dropping.

Because what we really need is for companies/organisations to be forced to accept flexible working practices and invest in certain types of leadership training for women as that will increase a pipeline of truly able and qualified women to take on the senior roles.

If companies have to have equal numbers of women in their workforce lower down the chain, they will have to adapt their working practices to make that feasible on an ongoing basis.

This should increase efficiency and allow women to maintain the experience they need for the bigger roles. If you make it tough on companies to support women, they can potentially cut the number of women they hire early on unless they have to fulfil quotas. Having a quota where you have a larger pool to select from, wont dilute the quality of your work force. Its's already roughly equal lower down, the quota would just ensure that doesn't change when there is pressure on companies to be more supportive.

At the end of the day you need quality at the top to make the business work. If you potentially dilute the quality because of numbers, without looking at the pipeline, businesses might suffer and that will impact lower down and across the markets. One of the other posters talked about pipeline and I fully agree.

No point having 50% women at the top if they aren't skilled, experienced and motivated to be at the top. My impression is that there simply aren't enough women in the pipeline at the moment to justify a quota at the top level.

Until companies are forced to retain women lower down the chain and make it possible for women to balance careers with childcare, playing with the quotas at the top end alone could have very detrimental impact on businesses and our credibility.

SundaeGirl Wed 14-Nov-12 10:07:39

Zombie, that's great that you got there. But wouldn't you have preferred it to be less of a struggle?

I agree with the poster talking about not making this women's fault. The problem is the board rooms are clogged with men. We need to unclog them a bit. And quotas would be a good way of doing that.

How does the law work in Norway? Are companies penalised if they don't meet the quota?

senua Wed 14-Nov-12 10:15:04

Actually, I think that women banging on the door demanding to be let in will probably never work. We have to show men that it's in their interest to have a good balance, something might happen then.
There are several examples of testosterone-fuelled behaviour almost bringing down the whole show (Barings, Bay of Pigs, banking crisis). If there had been a more female measured decision-making process then the disaster might never have occured. We need to sell that message.

flowery Wed 14-Nov-12 10:16:26

I'm against quotas.

I think they are patronising. If I am appointed to a Board somewhere I want to be certain it's on merit, not because of my gender, as ticking a box.

I think as a result any woman on a board will be assumed to be there because of her gender rather than her experience/qualifications and risks be treated as an irrelevance and irritation accordingly.

I think it's treating the symptoms rather than the causes.

I think combating one type of discrimination with another is wrong in principle.

Possibly my favourite quote - "we should have the confidence to be as average as men

my fave too grin

good commentary in the Gaurdian today Larry Elliott

Also, can we just think about the comments of (paraphrasing) lots of mediocre, token women on boards if there are quotas? If there was a quota of 50% for all senior appointments (senior to be defined, bear with me ) there would be loads of great women putting themselves forward imo. Prob at the moment seems to be, ime, few women putting themselves forward since they often assume they are unlikely to be successful

FrillyMilly Wed 14-Nov-12 10:25:13

If company policy was to have a 50/50 board, when a male was hired do you think he would think he was only there because he was male?

MordionAgenos Wed 14-Nov-12 10:26:14

They don't think that now. Although it's often the case.

SundaeGirl Wed 14-Nov-12 10:33:40

I don't understand the 'I want to know I'm there because I've earned it' line.

I presume boards will continue to advertise jobs, people will apply, interviews will take place, appropriate candidates will be selected. No one will be forcing a FTSE100 board to hire a home economics teacher or random unrelated 'female'. I'd be amazed if anyone appointed in a quota thought they hadn't earned it.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 11:32:00

There is a quota on Boards already. Its 95% male 5% female.

Loving the "..we should have the confidence to be as average as men" quote.

Never a truer word said and some of the men on Boards are distinctly underwhelming. grin

ZombieOnABicycle Wed 14-Nov-12 11:33:17

To be honest - in some ways the struggle to get where I am now, proves that I deserve it, I do agree that it shouldn't be as hard as it is, but I really don't think quotas are the way forward.

I spend a lot of time being the only female at meetings/events and I would love there to be more women, but some of that comes down to how we as women behave. I am sick to death of women over hearing a sexist comment and giggling along weakly - why not challenge it? I do, recently I had someone tell me women shouldn't be at work as we're ruled by our hormones, this was said to 4 women, I was the only one who questioned him, this man wasn't senior, just a loud obnoxious pig, but if we let people like him think that sort of thing is acceptable then it won't stop.

I've heard all the sexist jokes, been accused of sleeping my way to the top, even by a male who I considered a good friend (he claimed it just slipped out - but it shows how ingrained these thoughts are)

I'm all for the removal of the glass ceiling and have come up against it enough in my time, so please don't think I'm against women in higher positions, but I think we need to start lower down and be viewed as equals from day 1 not just put into the boardroom to make up the numbers.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 11:38:23

Until you get more women on the Board then women further down will not be treated equally because sexist attitudes and discrimination at the top will remain unchallenged.

It is chicken and egg.

fusam Wed 14-Nov-12 12:41:07

I agree with quotas. Corporate culture will not change until more women have the power to make changes. We have had how many years of highly qualified women coming out of universities? Equality is not going to happen without a great big push.

Even the 'let's be like them' strategies talked about earlier don't even work for women as studies have shown traits seen as good leadership in men is seen as negative qualities in women.

Study after study show that institutional sexism is very much going strong

Squify would love to hear more about your book.

flowery Wed 14-Nov-12 12:43:47

"I'd be amazed if anyone appointed in a quota thought they hadn't earned it."

I agree, but thinking you've earned it and thinking the fact that you earned it was the reason for your appointment are not the same thing.

TalkinPeace2 Wed 14-Nov-12 12:54:42

Lets start with Quotas for Non Execs
and pick up on morebeta's point about limiting the number of boards that one can sit on.
Personally I'd set the limit at 5 : one per day per week

the number of ex politicians with 20 or 30 board appointments (Private Eye covers such regularly) is just offensive
here is what we do NOT want ore of,_Lady_Judge

Once every board is used to working with at least three women then the fear factor will drop
and YES - make those poxy little headhunter firms wake up and stop stuffing boardrooms with people like their dads
even better - STOP using headhunter firms for Non Execs

put the Non Exec vacancies on Linkedin and let us openly apply for them ....

SundaeGirl Wed 14-Nov-12 13:07:48

'Thinking you've earned it and thinking the fact that you earned it was the reason for your appointment are not the same thing.'

No, they aren't exactly the same thing but they should amount to the same in practise. 'I can do it'.

If I go for a job and get it do I worry that I wasn't good enough? Because my competing applicants don't get the job because they have a floppy handshake or an abrasive manner or whatever means zero to me. The criteria they've used to hire me over someone else is not going to be a benchmark of my confidence in a job - that'll be my ability.

TalkinPeace2 Wed 14-Nov-12 13:35:54

As good as the men? .....
eleven jobs

sorry but the case has been made
jobs for the boys is NOT working.

flowery Wed 14-Nov-12 13:36:04

It's not a question of lacking confidence to be able to do the job. I just wouldn't want to work somewhere where they'd appointed me because of my gender, that's all. Not because I'd think I therefore am not good enough.

I agree that when applying for a job you don't worry that you are not good enough, or whether the other candidates were rejected for a silly reason like a floppy handshake. Partly because in the vast majority of cases it wasn't a silly reason and ability was genuinely the reason.

With board quotas there would be a very high likelihood that gender was all or part of the reason.

MousyMouse Wed 14-Nov-12 13:43:39

I think it is needed.
it is a bit like with seatbelts and the old light bulbs - unless men we are forced to rethink they (the men) will just hog the comforable board posts with the lame excuse that there were just no suitable women applying for the posts.

msrisotto Wed 14-Nov-12 13:48:28

To be fair, I was inadvertantly told that I was hired (to a previous job) over another applicant because I was female. Not board level or even close but the competition was fierce - 400 applicants. I never once felt not good enough or anything really! I was just glad that I got the job, despite the ridiculous competition. Male and female.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 14:38:08

Talkin - I would set it at 1 Exec position or 3 non-Exec as maximum. No one can do the job properly with 10 (or even 5) posts in my view. Its just a sinecure, offered to mates once it goes past that level.

All it woudl take is a change in the Companies Act. It really is that simple.

I woudl start with a quota of 5% on both Exec and non-Exec Boards and then increase that by 5% every year for the next 10 years. It would give firms time to recruit and promote from within. Limits on numbers of posts a Board memeber could hold would immediatley open up gaps for women to fill.

I have no doubt that firms would persist in trying to wriggle out of it by creating 'inner' Boards where men in real power are and token 'outer' Advisory Boards (as happens in Scandinavia) where women would get put.

It would be a start though.

C4ro Wed 14-Nov-12 15:36:57

I used to think quotas weren't needed... All through my 20's and early 30's I was keeping pace with my cohort of similar qualified men as far as job grade/ pay went. Just in the last 3-4 years it's starting to change. several of the 5-10 men that I consider my equals in career and talent level are now up to 2 grades higher than I am... I've had only 1ML of 16 weeks and my DH really does do his 50%- so that's hardly the reason I'm dropping behind.

The higher you go, the more that your network/ contacts/ political skills matter and the less difference a couple of IQ points and your actual job skill makes. So old boy networks and afterwork footy/ golf clubs DO start to make a difference. I am not on anyones shit-list and I regularly get high praise for my work... but I'm equally not their first thought when the absolute plum projects come up... Access to mentors, access to the prime customers/ projects all take their toll over time and give fewer opportunities to women to catch the lucky breaks it takes to advance. It's not so much that the are men actively trying to keep women down, it's just that they aren't spending any effort to give them any help up either.

Quotas is the way forwards. It will force an earlier focus on mentoring women and stop the lazy appointment of "people just like me" that means old white men get most of the top spots.

MavisG Wed 14-Nov-12 15:47:45

C4ro that's so depressing. I thought it was all - or nearly all - down to the effects of mat leaves & childcare being unevenly shared. 16 weeks is nothing. How shit.

TalkinPeace2 Wed 14-Nov-12 15:58:34

Up to a point.
I have three part time jobs and one seasonal one. I juggle them all
but then I'm a woman and able to multi task wink

Change in the companies Act : what would you suggest - both a required sex ration AND a limit on the number of non group directorships?
As a limit on the overall number of directorships would be a PITA for group structures where the directors are on all of the holding and subsidiary companies ....
Also the 'shadow director' rules would need to be strictly enforced (remember Tiny Rowland ....)

TalkinPeace2 Wed 14-Nov-12 16:07:04

Interesting to note that the EU policy paper is about
NON - EXECS in big and listed companies
rather than day to day directors in SMEs.....
at which stage all of the 'operational' arguments go out the window
as do the time commitment arguments
as do the industry experience arguments

and it just comes down to 'looks like me' sexism and ageism by the people doing the hiring .....

BlackSwan Wed 14-Nov-12 23:21:31

Board Quotas. Pie in the sky stuff for most women. How about better access to flexible working - wouldn't that benefit more of us?

Sure we need more women on boards - but in order to permit women to build the necessary experience to serve on boards, we need better access to flexible working so we don't slip off the radar once we have kids.

MordionAgenos Wed 14-Nov-12 23:24:08

You are only going to get better access to flexible working if more women are calling the shots.

BlackSwan Wed 14-Nov-12 23:27:41

I don't think we can wait for that. Do you?

MordionAgenos Wed 14-Nov-12 23:28:24

I don't think we can wait for quotas.

MordionAgenos Wed 14-Nov-12 23:29:36

I definitely think we don't want to get diverted into talking about flexible working again. Do we really want to look like that dog in Up, constantly being distracted by squirrels?

BlackSwan Wed 14-Nov-12 23:37:06

It's not a diversion, it's the harder question for most businesses, as it would have real consequences for the day to day running of a workplace.

Unless we're talking real levels of participation by women at board level - it's not going to make a hell of a lot of difference, because people on boards tend to move as a group in decision making and not rock the boat. I'd like to see a lone female board member be a trailblazer, but it ain't happening.

MordionAgenos Wed 14-Nov-12 23:42:57

It is comletely a diversion and the fact that you don't recognise that it is, just goes to show how well the men condition us to not rock the boat.

I'm fine. I'm a director. And my daughters are unlikely to go into the corporate world. But I might have granddaughters one day. Who might want to go into the corporate world. And I really don't want them to be faced by severely limited horizons and no likely prospect of being treated equally with similarly talented and qualified men, but with really good flexible working arrangements in those subservient less-than-their-talents-deserve jobs.

garlicbaguette Thu 15-Nov-12 00:29:36

Every time flexible working is raised with specific reference to women's careers, it reinforces the view that women don't 'work properly' because of having families.

To me it is obvious that flexible working ought to be beneficial to workers of all sexes, with and without children, and to their employers. We live in a 24-hour world but still work 10-hour days. This, however, is not a women's issue - or shouldn't be addressed as one. If women are primarily responsible for family, they are not primarily responsible to their employers.

All of this is extraneous to the urgent matter of board balancing. There are ample women, here and now, who've organised their family commitments such that they can devote as much time to work as men. Get them on the boards first, then press them to look at employee work/life balance.

Want2bSupermum Thu 15-Nov-12 00:34:56

Flexible working is not the answer to our problems. Getting men to pull their weight at home is. I love DH dearly but I gave up and hired a housekeeper two weeks ago to come in 4 evenings a week for 3 hours at a clip. I get home at 7pm which is when DD is heading down to bed. DH finishes work at 4.30pm, picks DD up and is home for 5pm. He should have her bedtime routine covered but it doesn't happen.

I am not going to sacrifice my career to cover for DH. I will add that DH is Danish so has no excuse at all for his apathy towards my career. It is a sticking point between us because I am not working a job, I am developing my career.

I also question the usefulness of comparing Norwegian boards to FTSE 100 boards. Norwegian companies are mainly state owned and they are profitable because they are mainly oil and gas related which have high profit margins compared to the companies that comprise of the FTSE 100. I think it would be better to compare the composition of boards that make up the top companies in the DAX (Germany), IBEX(Spain), CAC 40 (France), OBX (Scandinavian countries), S&P 500 (US) and TSX (Canada) indicies. It would also be interesting to look at the longer term trend of board composition. A two year snapshot is a very short time period and if you consider that board members tend to be in their 50s, there are not many women from that generation in the workplace. There are many more women in their 40s in senior management roles. How many of these women are going to make it to boards?

garlicbaguette Thu 15-Nov-12 01:02:35

there are not many women from that generation in the workplace

No, because we gave up or were pushed out - after having decided not to have children or made unconventional arrangements, so as to 'play the game'. The problem is that this is only part of the game; the more visible part. The greater, more influential, part revolves around (deliberate and subliminal) male clubbability and good old sexism. You also find that ageism's an even bigger problem for women than for men. I started my career in 1979. We've been asking the same bloody questions since before then. It is not all about flexibility!

WideAwakeMum Thu 15-Nov-12 05:59:58

Well, I'd like to see quotas actually. Sick of the inequality, sick of getting looked down on by men every time I raise the issue of 'gender diversity' on committees/boards.

amillionyears Thu 15-Nov-12 08:39:45

If there were a lot more women on boards, would they necessarily want to have more women on the boards themselves?

alreadytaken Thu 15-Nov-12 09:09:32

anyone at board level should take a good look around at the other members. I would be extremely surprised if you can't find at least half who are not as good as women in the company. Yes there should be quotas, although not 50/50. We really can not afford to carry the inadequate males at board level.

HullyEastergully Thu 15-Nov-12 09:16:26

how could anyone POSSIBLY say no?


MoreBeta Thu 15-Nov-12 09:59:12

Want2bSupermum - interesting your point about Norwegian firms.

From what I have seen of Scandinavian, Swiss, German and French firms (I used to work in the energy industry) there really is not much difference between them and UK firms when it comes to female representation on Boards. Continental European and Scandinavian firms in my view are not better at bringing women in to positions of real power on Boards than UK firms although the raw numbers make it look better.

I would also add that as well as heavy state intervention there are also a lot of firms that are quoted on European stockmarkets but effectively still majority owned or under the control of a family shareholder A lot of the women on Boards of firms in mainland Europe are in fact female relatives of the original founder. All is not quite what it seems.

MordionAgenos Thu 15-Nov-12 10:06:08

@morebeta In my experience and in my sector Germany in particular is far behind the UK in terms of equality at the pointy end. The Scandinavian countries seem nicer and more equal but in practice, again, women at the top are few and far between.

On the other hand there are success stories in Eastern European 'new' countries although perhaps not at FTSE100 equivalent companies (but then, those don't exist in the same way there). It is not at all terribly noticesbly unusual to see women in positions of real power in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Czech Republic.....

RamblingRosa Thu 15-Nov-12 10:10:55

A big resounding YES from me. We need quotas. Quotas are the only thing that have been shown to work in terms of effecting change quickly (in Norway).

TalkinPeace2 Thu 15-Nov-12 11:21:09

And this quota thing has NOTHING to do with flexible working and day to day activities in firms.
Its about non execs in large companies
so its trying to change the ethos from the top that WILL have an impact on the other issues.

MousyMouse Thu 15-Nov-12 11:36:24

how could anyone POSSIBLY say no?
the old bald white men are trying their hardest atm. I really hope this goes through.

wrt to flexible working, this might also mean that flexible working will be more attractive for companies, as they need to get enough women to top levels to fill the quota without the companies suffering.

MousyMouse Thu 15-Nov-12 11:39:49

companies suffering = having to hire people who are not quite suitable because the are not enough qualified persons available on the job market.

MordionAgenos Thu 15-Nov-12 12:07:00

@takin indeed. It's a squirrel. But there may be an element of uppity career woman bashing going on too.

MordionAgenos Thu 15-Nov-12 12:08:29

@mousey there are plenty of qualified women available on the job market. It's a complete myth - perpetrated by guess who - that there aren't any good women out there.

notcitrus Thu 15-Nov-12 13:05:20

Another one who used to be against quotas, is now late 30s, and hitting the barrier of 'well you just don't come across as a senior manager' - which would be a good point if all the stakeholders I deal with didn't usually assume I'm a director or similar level! I think efforts like quotas are necessary.

One option at least in the public sector might be to tell headhunting firms that we will only use you if you can consistently supply 50% appropriate women for interviewing - I bet that would make a difference quite quickly!

Want2bSupermum Fri 16-Nov-12 03:14:58

DH is Danish and has worked for a Danish company for his whole career. There are very few women in leadership positions and almost no women in areas such as sales (3 women, two are new trainees, out of 200+). Those in sales and production are the ones who make it to the board. MoreBeta The two women on the board are related to the two biggest shareholders. I pointed this out to DH when he said his employer did support women in the workplace.

The Danish people who I have gotten to know through DH talk a great game but in reality there are some very limited views on what equality is. Apparently I should be willing to drop everything and move to the other side of the world because it would be good for his career. How about my career? Rather sexist attitude in my opinion....

Anyway, I found this article published by Delolitte that gives a comparison of the breakdown of the representation of women on boards. Norway and France both have quotas and have higher participation of women on the boards. The UK is doing well compared to other countries without quotas. Interestingly the US has the highest participation of women on boards (where no quota is in place).

I am married to someone who could end up on the board. I have strongly encouraged DH to mentor the two female trainees in his department and challenge his opinions when it comes to management issues that he discusses with me. In my workplace I challenge those who don't support diversity. I find it interesting that no one is talking about the representation of other minority groups on boards. I love the fact that the team I am working with this week includes three Americans, an Egyptian, a Chinese person, someone from Rwanda via France and a Brit (myself). The quality of person is much higher than at my previous employer where everyone was white middle class Americans.

MordionAgenos Fri 16-Nov-12 08:15:07

@want2b other minority groups Women aren't a minority though, are we? In the population. Just in positions of power and influence. I think people are talking about ethnic representation, as it happens, just not on here. But certainly in the city being a woman is a bigger drawback than being a member of an ethnic minority.

Completely agree with you re Denmark, where your experience mirrors mine, except for the being married to a Dane bit (I do a lot of work with Danes though) and the US - generally speaking things are better for women in the US than here. Generally speaking things are better for women here than in the rest of Europe (including most of Scandinavia though possibly not Norway). Agitating and keeping the issue at the forefront hasn't served us completely uselessly up till now. But I don't think it can take us any further, hence my support for quotas.

HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 16-Nov-12 11:48:22

Hello. Just posting to thank you for all your response so far and to let you know that we have put up a poll about this on our Facebook page.

Please do come and have your say: it's a simple yes/no question so it'll only take a mo.

We'd be really really interested to see the results...

CalmingMiranda Fri 16-Nov-12 14:21:03

What would the quota be? How do we set an acceptable minimum? Would the quota be a mimimum - or be viewed as companies as the maximum they need bother with?

It's all very well having quotas in Norway, Norway has one of the most working-parent environments on the world. A quota in Norway is likely to simply address sexism. A quota here may be patronising and allow women who are not the creme de la creme to be appointed because the top competition have been at home.

But then the stifling of women's careers has enabled mediocre men to flourish for lack of competition.

I think the years of quotas have gone. We need to address the economic factors and the culture which expects women to stall their careers, women and men to 'assume' that the parent who stays home when baby is sick is the woman etc etc.

I only caught part of Nick Clegg's interview on R4 this week about flexible working, but why was he talking of 'grandmothers' helping their 'daughters' with childcare? What about Grandfathers helping their sons?

TalkinPeace2 Fri 16-Nov-12 14:25:22

for non execs it should be 50%
same as the population

remember that this is NOT about full time work and careers
this is about part time non execs at big companies
day a week type things - there really is NO EXCUSE why companies are not using more women

flowery Fri 16-Nov-12 14:31:10

I'm interested to know whether any of those in favour of quotas for women would also be in favour of them for minority ethnic groups? If not, why not?

TalkinPeace2 Fri 16-Nov-12 14:39:54

lets start with women first - as was the case with most other anti discrimination law
and actually, as soon as headhunters are no longer able to only pass on the forms for white public school men, everybody else might get a look in.

Want2bSupermum Fri 16-Nov-12 14:43:16

MordionAgenos Women are minorities when it comes to senior management and boards. There are about as many ethnic minorities as women in senior managment which is why I think there needs to be focus on supporting these groups to grow into these positions.

Non-execs do these roles in addition to working full time. To think a non-exec works one a day a week and no more is a misnomer.

TalkinPeace2 Fri 16-Nov-12 15:05:51

Non-execs do these roles in addition to working full time. To think a non-exec works one a day a week and no more is a misnomer
sorry but that is NOT borne out by the facts.
Many of the top quangocrats hold down over ten jobs.
Lady Judge alone is on over 20 boards.
Chris Patten holds 11 posts including head of the BBC Trust

Many of the non exec jobs ARE part time. That is the whole point of them. They are for people NOT involved with the day to day running of the company, to case a sceptical eye.
Therefore some of the ones that require a day a week or a day a month, in exchange for £30,000 a year would be perfect for many of the MN posters with older kids who have both professional employment and life skill experience.

CalmingMiranda Fri 16-Nov-12 15:29:29

TalkinPeace - But these roles change hands on the basis of a reputation in full time career exec roles, and on the kind of networking that takes place after hours at charity balls and dinners , political events, on the golf course at weekends etc. Amongst men who work all hours, all over the world, while their (probably highly qualified) wife manages the children and household.

TalkinPeace2 Fri 16-Nov-12 16:01:24

which is exactly why the economy is so nadgered

if the banks had had some genuinely outsider non execs who did NOT sit on each others' remuneration and audit committees, the fact that the emperor was wearing no clothes might have been highlighted a bit sooner.

And sadly if you dig a bit deeper, many of the "reputations" are for failure.
Funny how everybody involved in the utter SNAFU that was the Dome went onto greater and better things
etc etc Eyes as passim

MoreBeta Fri 16-Nov-12 16:33:45

Yes non exec roles would be perfect training grounds for more women executive directors.

Unfortunately these posts are also extremely hard to get. They go to establishment figures in charities/public sector and they go to people who are already exec directors in big firms.

Talkin - agree with you about the merry go round of abject failures that seem to go on and appear on one Board after another.

Another problem that causes fewer women to appear on Boards is because shareholders are usually big investment institutions who barely excercise their right to vote at all (usually abstaining or just voting with the Board) and even if they do the men at the top of those institutions increasingly also sit on Boards of other firms too.

There really is almost no control over what Boards do.

MordionAgenos Fri 16-Nov-12 17:09:47

@flowery I'd be in favour of them for women belonging to minority ethnic groups. I'd only be favour for them for men if they were taken out of the man quota. Not as something on it's own. Because in my experience being a woman is a much bigger drawback in this particular arena than ethnicity. And in my experience some men are not above using diversionary tactics such as pushing ethnicity quotas ahead of gender ones to just carry on blocking women.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Fri 16-Nov-12 17:43:15

Do people who are against quotas, saying that they want women to get the positions on ability, believe that there are significantly fewer women of ability than men, and that that is the root cause of the difference?

Want2bSupermum Fri 16-Nov-12 17:47:33

Talkin Exactly - non-execs are working more than one job. They are often working 80+ hours a week.

DoS I think women are just as able as men. I think the culture in society and the workplace doesn't support women making it to the top.

TalkinPeace2 Fri 16-Nov-12 18:33:47

They are often working 80+ hours a week.
Which (a) illegal (b) stupid - when millions of people are scrabbling around for part time jobs and a few greedy bastards are hogging lots of them
and doing them BADLY

culture in society and the workplace doesn't support women making it to the top
so that culture MUST change if we are to avoid the catastrophic mistakes of the last few years

Kiran33 Sat 17-Nov-12 00:20:20

Absolutely need quotas - there are so many well qualified and capable women who frankly are not and will never be offered roles that they are more than capable of doing. Totally disagree with the view that quotas mean that unqualified / incapable women will be promoted above better men - that view requires you the believe first that women are incapable which is why they didn't get there in the first place by themselves (which is utter rubbish) and if you don't think women are less competent than men, well then why aren't there more women on boards or other senior positions?? Something has to give and waiting your turn nicely isn't going to be enough. Wake up!!

FastidiaBlueberry Sat 17-Nov-12 12:31:36

Yes we definitely need quotas.

Men have had them for centuries (for most of recorded history it was 100%) and they've done very nicely out of them.

There are loads of men in senior positions who are there because they have penises and nobody bats an eyelid. Further, no man says "I'd really rather not get the job just because of my gender" because they are blissfully unaware that it is their gender which has enabled them to do the job.

They have the glorious luxury of not noticing that having a wife who picks up the slack at home (even when she also works full-time), who does most of the housework and childcare, frees them to pursue their careers without the need to do the planning and domestic work that goes into running a house. They also don't realise that their bosses have a subliminal assumption that they are competent and reliable purely and simply because they are male while their female colleagues have to prove over and over again that they are reliable and competent. If a woman makes a mistake at work, it blots her copy forever and she has to keep making up for it; if a man makes a mistake, it's accepted as a learning experience and not held against him long-term.

All these advantages men have without acknowledging or even realising they've got them. Most women don't realise men have got them either. We're not going to change people's psyche's in a generation, so until we've done away with patriarchal sexist assumptions, we need to even the playing field somehow. Quotas seems as good a means as any. Talk of it not being fair on men shows how stuck in that groove of believing men's lives are more important than women's we are: the fact that currently, systematically, we are being outrageously unfair to women as a caste, never disturbs people as much as any potential unfairness to individual men. And that's because we still value men more than women, though we don't consciously realise that. Quotas will ensure that our deep-seated patriarchal values, are balanced a bit.

Monkeytrewsers Sat 17-Nov-12 15:21:16
justcait Sat 17-Nov-12 16:53:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Want2bSupermum Sat 17-Nov-12 17:14:29

This is why I think we need to focus on challenging the current norms. Last week I was in Chicago and will be back out there the week after next. The week after that I will head down to Atlanta on Monday pm returning Wednesday PM. DH had me on speaker and one of his collegues joked that DH was Mr Mom. I told him that DH was being DD's father. No one bats an eyelid when DH is away for 10 days straight leaving me with DD on my own over two weekends. In the aftermath of hurricane sandy we had no power. DH had to drive down to Virginia to take care of business. I had DD on my own. No one called me Mr Dada as I took care of DD, studied for my upcoming exam and worked. Im not saying they should either. That is the responsibility you take on when you have children.

I am working towards being in senior management in the future. My sister is already there. DH is very close. You can't get there without working more than 40 hours a week. If you include our study time as work both DH and I currently work around 100 hours a week right now.

Talkin If you want to avoid the economic issues of the past few years then there needs to be tighter regulation of financial markets and better fiscal management of the economy. Gordon Brown borrowed far too much and we are now saddled with debt while people have high expectations of what the government should be doing for them. You should never borrow money to spend on expenses. That is what the UK and we are paying the price. Most companies are in very good health.

HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Sat 17-Nov-12 17:31:07

Hello. Just popping by to remind you that we have a poll about whether there should be quotas for women or not on our Facebook page.

Please do come and vote. It only take a mo - and we're watching the result with great interest.

Meglet Sat 17-Nov-12 18:12:36

I'm going to say no to quotas. But yes to giving management and HR a kick up the backside when it comes to making work more flexible so women can continue to work when they have children and to encourage more men to shift their hours around to take a larger part in staying with the kids, doing school runs etc.

At the moment (large generalisation here) the child raising is dumped all on the mothers shoulders and the dad has to earn all the money. More dads being able to get out of work early or have flexible work would allow mums to get back to work sooner and have a better chance of getting to the boardroom. Split the parenting up more evenly then mums will have a better shot at work.

(disclaimer, I just do admin and have never managed or been in HR, but that's what I see from my position and what happens to friends and colleagues).

MordionAgenos Sat 17-Nov-12 19:28:31


TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sat 17-Nov-12 19:43:59

Helen why isn't it the usual mumsnet poll? I don't like linking FB to MN and I think others have said the same in the past.

justcait Sat 17-Nov-12 20:06:48

Helen, I agree with TDOS. I'm not going to answer a FB poll - FB is in a different (ring-fenced) part of my life.

SundaeGirl Sat 17-Nov-12 20:07:10

Have we all voted? I'm surprised it's so close.

notcitrus Sat 17-Nov-12 21:10:45

I'm not voting on Facebook with my real name attached where potential employers might see it - don't want to be seen as a troublemaker before the interview!

garlicbaguette Sat 17-Nov-12 22:41:09

Everything FastidiaBlueberry said, and all that justcait added in support.

I'm surprised by your facile comments about government borrowing, Want2b, given your boardroom ambitions. UK government borrowing has doubled since 2008. Charts here. You might also wonder to whom, exactly, does the UK owe a thousand million pounds?

BlueyDragon Sun 18-Nov-12 00:02:45

I don't think there should be quotas. All that happens with quotas is that the minority being favoured by the quota is done a disservice, because the quota creates a pressure to appoint a lesser candidate in the situation where a candidate from the majority is actually the better one. The poorer performance of the minority candidate is then viewed as reflecting on the minority as a whole. And even if the minority candidate is better, there will always be those who claim, "She only got the job because they needed to make up the numbers".

I think the real questions are a)why aren't women applying for these jobs and b) why aren't they getting them? Quotas don't address either of those questions.

Apologies, I'm not going to the FB poll. As others said above, FB is a different section of my life and I don't want to mix the two. The ordinary MN poll would have been ok.

HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Sun 18-Nov-12 00:17:50


Helen why isn't it the usual mumsnet poll? I don't like linking FB to MN and I think others have said the same in the past.

We thought we'd try something different, tbh.

Take your point, though. And we'll think on't.

noviceoftheday Sun 18-Nov-12 08:16:25

I believe in pressure like the 30% club, which I do think has had an influence over the last couple of years. I don't believe in quotas. I know I have got to my position in my career because I am talented and not because someone had a quota to fill. When people see my business card, yes they are puzzled that I am female, short and look about 20 but holding myself out as "x", and yes, I have had meetings where the man hasn't focused on what I was saying on my card because he's busy trying to match up the card with me. However, in these meetings, you can almost see them mentally shake themselves and say well if this leading company has said that she's "x" then I trust in that and then start focusing. I guess I wouldn't like them to next get to "oh well she must be there because of quotas so I won't listen to what she says, I will stay mentally checked out, and already be thinking about bloke from the next company who is meeting me next to discuss the same thing or pitch for the same business".

HandbagCrab Sun 18-Nov-12 11:28:26

I work in a school and apart from the head all senior leadership are female.

The women that are closer to retirement who are senior leaders have grown up children.The younger ones in their 30s do not have families and work is their lives. I feel this is the consequence of current working practices we have. I can be as brilliant as you like but I can't magic away my ds and I would not want to.

I don't want to work 100 hour weeks, I want to be a rounded, relaxed person who is good at a job say 40-50 hours a week full time or 25-30 hours a week part time. I don't think a long hours, devotion to the job working culture is sustainable for most people in the long term and I don't think it's the best judge of whether someone is the best person for the job. I think there are other skills and qualities that are more important than an ability to put all other aspects of life to one side to focus on making money or output for your employer.

So I agree with quotas. I agree with the points made previously by other posters who agree with quotas. I think as well it could be used as an opportunity to look critically at the reasons why people are where they are and whether the skills and qualities they have are the best ones for success or if other traits which are not necessarily valued as much might be actually making more of a difference. We'd struggle to answer that question at the moment because the people who 'make it' seem fairly homogenous.

garlicbaguette Sun 18-Nov-12 11:31:52

Rather sadly, I heard these same arguments when quotas were first applied in public services - only, then, it was about "blacks".

There's an added twist on this: there will always be those who claim, "She only got the job because they needed to make up the numbers". Currently, they claim "She only got the job because she shagged the chairman". I fail to see how that lends her authority.

FastidiaBlueberry Sun 18-Nov-12 11:45:46

Garlicbaguette is absolutely right, people always say that women only got the job because of something which has nothing to do with competence - shagged the chairman, has big breasts, is good friends with xyz - the sexism and undermining women face is there anyway, without quotas.

Every time a woman hears someone say that another woman only got the job because of xyz, she should point out that most men only got the job because they are men.

The assumption that if we apply quotas we'll get sub-standard women, is itself a sexist one. We regularly get sub-standard men, men who if they did not have penises would never have got the job, but no-one notices because the assumption that men are competent and have the right to be in leadership positions is deeply ingrained while the assumption that women who do so are "intruders on the rights of men" is also deeply ingrained.

Women have to be miles better than their male counterpart to get a leadership position. This is wrong. We should be able to be as mediocre as men are and still have the opportunities they do.

garlicbaguette Sun 18-Nov-12 11:51:20

I think as well it could be used as an opportunity to look critically at the reasons why people are where they are and whether the skills and qualities they have are the best ones for success

Another very good point, HandbagCrab. In a recent discussion on here, a Mumsnetter told how she'd been part of a team that reviewed the review process for high-flying candidates in her organisation. They found that the men had been (probably unconsciously?) subjected to lower expectations than the women throughout the evaluation process, leading to an apparently unbiased skew towards men for promotion.

The evaluation data showed that men were generally more competent. It was only queried when a (male) reviewer observed that the women were statistically unlikely to be clustered towards the bottom of quite so many curves. This is the sort of thing that feminists mean by systemic oppression.

It reminds me, somehow, of the Enron firing quota. Each year, the bottom 15% (iirc) of traders would be fired. On the face of it, this was a brutally efficient means of ensuring high performance standards. In reality it achieved a floor full of management parrots - traders who asked too many questions would be given less profitable accounts or sectors, and excluded from certain information loops, thus making it harder for them to achieve average results.

garlicbaguette Sun 18-Nov-12 11:52:25

Well said, Fastidia.

MoreBeta Sun 18-Nov-12 12:41:48

The bias only has to be very small to get the huge imbalance we see now in Board level positions.

Typically on graduate recruitment programmes there is a true 50:50 balance between the sexes but over a 30 year career before Board level is reached you only need to promote 2% more men per year than women and you will end up with almost exclusively men in top positions.

The bias is so small it is hard to detect but when it happens every single year of someones career it has huge cumulative impact. This is why young women often think they are being treated equally until about 10 years in and then suddenly they find out men their age are being paid far more and have been promoted higher up the ladder and at a faster pace. Then they have children and even if they come back to work find it really isnt worth the fight and many quite sensibly give up when teh second child comes along.

This is why we need quotas to counteract the built in bias in the system.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 18-Nov-12 14:49:09

Well said, Fastidia.

The example of the screened auditioning of orchestral players could be used here.

BlueyDragon Sun 18-Nov-12 23:09:38

It's not an assumption that a less able candidate will get the position if there's a quota, that's how it has to work to get the quota filled. If you as a recruiting person are presented with a male candidate and a female candidate and you have a quota to fill, you end up in a position where you are forced to favour the candidate who comes with a quota attached. I'm not suggesting for one minute that men are better than women on a general basis (or indeed vice versa), but the situation can still arise where the male candidate is the better option and a quota creates a bias against the better candidate. So the quota system is discredited. I agree that the current system is far from perfect and can put less able men in positions they should not have, but I don't think that quotas address the questions I posed above and until those are answered we won't get the meritocracy we need, want and deserve.

FastidiaBlueberry Sun 18-Nov-12 23:27:40

But until we get quotas, we won't get the meritocracy we need and deserve, because men are being over-promoted because they are men, now. It's happening now, it's not in the future, it's not something that might happen some time a long way off, it's actually happening right now as we speak and no one is alarmed about it they way they are alarmed by the potential that sometimes, a woman who doesn't deserve the job might be promoted above a man who does.

This happens all the time the other way round and we call it a meritocracy and it isn't, it's a system of unconscious positive discrimination in favour of men. That's why we need quotas, so that that female disadvantage is reduced. It won't of course, stop completely, because women also assume that men are better than women and set the bar for them to be considered competent lower than for women - but it will reduce the inbuilt bias towards promoting men a little bit and it will normalise female voices and outlooks on the board.

Which must be terrifying for some people because when female voices are heard and normalised, the world changes. And blimey we need to change the world.

Want2bSupermum Mon 19-Nov-12 03:21:15

garlic UK borrowing has doubled because too much was borrowed in the first place and subsequently not spent in the right places. Borrowing has increased mainly because tax revenues have dropped and the UK has not reduced spending (not that they should) to a sustainable level given the income funds from taxation. This is part of the normal business cycle. The other reason for the increase in borrowing is that the cost of debt has increased (we are paying interest on interest) and we are paying for stupid decisions such as PFI contracts which are completly unsustainable.

I will also say that there were women who tried to sleep to the top. It gets you to middle management and while it might get you onto the boardroom table it doesn't get you onto the board of directors.

handbagcrab It is very very difficult to make it to the top only working 40-50 hours per week. The point of the board of directors is that you are there to represent the owners of the business. My sister is on a board of a smaller private business (revenue of $30 million a year) through her old job in private equity and she is very invovled. As a non-exec board member she is contracted to work 1 day a month but works probably 24-30 hours a month and 48-72 hours at month end. She does this in addition to her regular job where she heads up a finance division. In her regular job she is available at any time as her division operates globally. My father was on a few boards and worked around the same hours for non-exec positions (he held a max. of 4 at any one time) and was a full time board member on one board only because he didn't have enough time to do more.

With regards to a bias, there might be a small bias but I don't think that is the reason why so many women are not making it to senior management. I think if you look at the performance of women in the workplace there is an issue once children arrive. Women are working less hours at their place of employment compared to men once children arrive. I believe this is the biggest obstacle to women advancing in the workplace.

Flexible working arrangements are great but it does normally result in you not getting the experience to make it to the top. Nothing wrong with flexible working, but don't expect to make it to board level.

HandbagCrab Mon 19-Nov-12 08:43:38

want2be why though? Why is it if you are capable of being a big fish you can only demonstrate this by working ridiculously long hours over a period of years where a lot of people have children? Are long hours really the only arbiter of being good enough to be a director?

Personally I prefer results and ideas than a person who works 100 hours a week. I think it stops a vast proportion of the workforce ever being considered for top jobs because they won't make the sacrifice of working 12 hours a day, every day. It certainly stops women getting there because we need to recover from giving birth and for some women that takes a lot longer than 2 weeks.

Also why should work be your life in 2012? We in theory should have loads of leisure time these days. We have lots of qualified, experienced people at the moment who can't get a job and lots of similar people in work, doing the hours of 2+ people as they are worried they might lose their job. It's so arse about face.

Bramshott Mon 19-Nov-12 10:53:04

Is the Facebook poll closed? I couldn't find it on the linked page.

Want2bSupermum Mon 19-Nov-12 12:31:12

Handbag I think there are a few reasons for the long working hours. First of all to get the experience to enable one to perform at a high level requires dedication. Long hours alone are not enough to make it to the top. You need to put the hours in but you also have to perform too. Top consultants in the medical field don't get there coasting along working 35hr weeks and the business world is no different.

Then once you get there to do the job properly requires you put the hours in. My sister puts the hours in. You could say she has a flexible working arrangement but her work and life are very much intertwined and flexible working means she is still putting in 65+ hours a week. She is also here in the US working on the west coast. The pace is more relaxed so when you see her in costco at 10am on a Monday you don't know that she is working while she makes calls and is on her way into work. I would say she works more than 12 hours a day mid week and about 5-6hrs a day at the weekends.

The other issue is that to achieve the results from ones ideas requires long hours. In her last position my sister oversaw a new system be developed and installed. It was her baby and she worked really hard. It was almost the undoing of her. However, she learnt a lot from it. If she had job shared and worked less hours I don't think she would have learnt as much and her value would be less.

TalkinPeace2 Mon 19-Nov-12 12:42:27

or at least the EU report is
so its nothing to do with the hours culture and presenteeism
its all about getting listed companies and Plcs to have equal numbers of male and female NON exec directors on the board.

All else is a red herring until that issue has been dealt with
as numbers of female non execs will change the ethos of firms from the top

msrisotto Mon 19-Nov-12 13:14:48

Bramshott I can still see the poll, it's on the right hand side, next to the roses are red, wine is red photo.

Bramshott Mon 19-Nov-12 16:30:42

Found it - being dim - sorry! Thanks MrsR

BlueyDragon Mon 19-Nov-12 20:19:23

Fastidia, I think we're agreeing on the fact that there isn't a meritocracy now but disagreeing on how to achieve one. To my way of thinking, quotas don't normalise they patronise. To normalise the female voice what we need, surely, is sheer weight of numbers at the level from which appointments are made. Why aren't there equal numbers of men and women at this level? What's preventing it?

FastidiaBlueberry Mon 19-Nov-12 20:33:11

Sexism is preventing it.

And the problem is, sexism is so deeply ingrained that everyone denies it and pretends it's all about women's choices, when women's choices are made in a sexist system which makes certain choices almost inevitable, or at least a hell of a lot easier than others.

When we have no more sexism, we'll have no need of quotas.

garlicbaguette Mon 19-Nov-12 23:38:03

sheer weight of numbers at the level from which appointments are made. Why aren't there equal numbers of men and women at this level?

MoreBeta answered this only a few posts up. He wrote:-

The bias only has to be very small to get the huge imbalance we see now in Board level positions.

Typically on graduate recruitment programmes there is a true 50:50 balance between the sexes but over a 30 year career before Board level is reached you only need to promote 2% more men per year than women and you will end up with almost exclusively men in top positions.

The bias is so small it is hard to detect but when it happens every single year of someones career it has huge cumulative impact. This is why young women often think they are being treated equally until about 10 years in and then suddenly they find out men their age are being paid far more and have been promoted higher up the ladder and at a faster pace. Then they have children and even if they come back to work find it really isnt worth the fight and many quite sensibly give up when teh second child comes along.

This is why we need quotas to counteract the built in bias in the system.

garlicbaguette Mon 19-Nov-12 23:42:21

women's choices are made in a sexist system which makes certain choices almost inevitable

Yes. It is not invisible. People prefer not to look, for some reason that's incomprehensible to me.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 19-Nov-12 23:50:33

Link to blind audition study mentioned above by me:

FastidiaBlueberry Tue 20-Nov-12 15:18:24

Doctrine, it's also been shown that if you submit CV's with exactly the same info with women's names and men's names, men are more likely to get interviews.

And yet people are desperate to claim there's no problem of sexism any more.

TalkinPeace2 Tue 20-Nov-12 15:20:00

what is the average age of these "top" people
ie how many are just relics

TalkinPeace2 Tue 20-Nov-12 15:21:39

wrong thread about sexism

TalkinPeace2 Tue 20-Nov-12 21:22:16

THE problem is that the women at the top are few and far between - and seem to manage LOTS of jobs each

and to anybody who argues that huge amounts of time are needed to be a board member of a listed company
WTF do you think your MP is doing then (look them up on duedil or here

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