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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,


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.

clinkingIceCubes Wed 14-Nov-12 10:17:36

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.

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