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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,


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.

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