According to Dame Julia Cleverdon ‘Quotas are bad for business, quotas are for fish and not for women. The wrong fish end up slipping into the net and the right fish fall out of the net because someone tore small holes into the net.’
The Vice President of Business in the Community believes that voluntary targets should be implemented rather than enforced quotas, but she is up against a long line of women, who believe the opposite.
Including Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook, who described the controversial issue of quotas as ‘unfortunate but necessary’, Sandberg went on to say that there was a ‘tyranny of low expectations’ among women, in particular in politics, referring to the last US election; ‘20% representation of 50% of the population is not a takeover, it’s a problem.’
The Women’s Organisation believe that quotas should be implemented in businesses, and that although it’s a grim reality to have to enforce diversity and representation, when statistics and studies repeatedly reveal the low numbers of women in boardrooms, it may be the only step forward to take.
A census released at the end of 2014 listed companies that show women have been substantially underrepresented on boards across the world. At the top of the global list are countries which have introduced quotas, such as France, where 29.7% of CAC 40 board seats are held by women. Representation is lowest in Asia, with women representing just 3.1 percent of boards in Japan.
Whereas in the U.K, we are under a ‘non-binding’ or ‘voluntary’ target that women should occupy a quarter of board’s seats at our largest companies by the end of this year. Currently the UK stands at 22.8%, with a target of 25%.
In the last few days Vince Cable, the business secretary, who has long opposed quotas, continued to support and advocate the UK’s voluntary target scheme. He said; ‘Our target is 25% of women on boards by 2015 is in sight. However, the EU mandatory target remains a reality if we do not meet it. If we are to avoid action from Brussels, we must continue to demonstrate that our voluntary approach is the right one and is working.’
But The Women’s Organisation believes that, ultimately, the aim is for quotas to be unnecessary. When there is more equality and representation on boards, and more women are reaching higher stages of their careers rather than being deselected earlier, we will see a return to a competitive selection of senior positions and board member positions. A more equal spread of candidates will reach the sub-executive level, and when this occurs more balanced boardrooms should appear where everyone is selected on their merit, rather than to fill a quota. But this isn’t going to happen quickly or indeed anytime soon. Which is why quotas need to be implemented, to push this vision to become a reality sooner.