Women in the Boardroom

I’m not a huge feminist, preferring to run a meritocracy which is why I cringe when I read headlines like this one on the Personnel Today website (www.personneltoday.com):

 Listed Companies Should Publish Numbers of Executive Women

Apparently the CBI believes that companies should have to publish their figures on a ‘comply or explain’ basis.

Why do we need to have this debate?

It’s obvious to blind Freddy that there should be more women board members and I’ve written about the legislation introduced by Norway 10 years ago to bring into balance the gender of members of the board and the positive effects it’s had on the Norwegian economy.

The release of talent into Norwegian business has been enormous and hugely beneficial.
But quotas and reporting are not what’s required.

Quotas and reports are fudged, loopholes found and generally great excuses are concocted to explain why this company or that doesn’t have the right number of women on the board.

In fact, if as much effort went into finding a way to do the right thing as there is trying to find a way to fudge the issue, businesses would be 10 times more successful than they are right now!

Although, to be fair, Helen Alexander, President of the CBI, as said: ‘What is needed is cultural change, not quotas, ratios and tokenism.’
Hmmm… tricky.

The TUC has ‘backed up’ the CBI’s call for more regulatory pressure on companies who fail to address low numbers of women in the boardroom.

But, then, we’ve all been saying this for more than 30 years and I think we’re all missing the point. By making it a male/female thing it becomes arbitrary and, almost by definition, tokenism and quota led.

What is fairer is promoting people to board level based on their ability to do the job… in other words by merit.  Otherwise we have the ridiculous situation where a board is dominated by men (or presumably women, if we are to entirely non discriminatory) and the next bloke (or woman) who comes along who is perfect can’t have the job because he (or she) is the wrong gender, which means a board is weakened not strengthened.
If this all seems a bit cerebral, think about it in another way.

If we accept that, overall, men and women are equal and we only appoint board positions based on the ability of the candidate to do the job then over time (and it took Norway a decade), the numbers of men and women on boards will equalise anyway.

So, the question is not ‘how many women do you have on the board?’  It’s: ‘do you have the right people on the board?’

Now, that’s what I call a cultural change.

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