Quotas aren’t the ideal solution for women on boards


With Germany proposing an introduction of mandatory quotas for women on boards and France, Spain and Italy also considering the idea, gender quotas for the UK would not be popular amongst British women. Instead, targets and education of middle management need to be implemented to help drive change.

Companies have sales targets – why don’t we have targets related to diversity? We need something to aim for and something to put pressure on companies to boost gender equality, otherwise the situation won’t improve.

A report commissioned by the Government Equalities Office predicts that at the current rate of progress it could take six decades for women to gain equal representation on the boards of FTSE 100 companies. However the majority of the women that we talk to don’t want to see the introduction of quotas – they want to get the top jobs on their own merit and ability, not to make up numbers.

There is evidence that shows having more women at board level has a positive effect on the bottom line, as well as bringing more ideas to the table. But there needs to be more education within organisations about the case for diversity. The CEO may be really bought into the idea but this attitude needs to filter down to middle management who must understand the real benefits that having a more diverse team can bring.

Good female talent can be difficult to find, especially at senior level, so it’s also important that employers mentor and support future female leaders in their organisations. More equal parental leave is also needed if we want women to realistically be able to reach board level positions, and hopefully Nick Clegg’s plans around this will have a positive impact, but this will take time. Quotas aren’t the ideal solution but must be considered if we don’t see improvements.

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Maggie Berry runs Womenintechnology, a leading online job board and networking forum for women working in the technology profession in the UK. She has been involved since Womenintechnology's inception in the autumn of 2004 and manages all aspects of the Web site and the networking activities Womenintechnology organises.