Over half of working mums think that there should be quotas for the number of women on the boards of Britain’s companies, according to a poll by Workingmums.co.uk.
The poll of 132 working mums showed 55% support quotas as against 35% who are against. Some 10% said they were undecided on the issue.
One working mum said she was in favour of quotas, but only temporarily. “Once we’re all used to women being on boards and this is no longer part of the conversation we should do away with quotas,” she said.
But others felt strongly that quotas might harm women in the long run.
One woman said: ” If you have quotas, you will breed resentment, and the very people they’re designed to help will lose out; feeling that they’re not on the Board for merit but to make up the numbers.”
Another commented: “I feel if employers can ‘work towards the 40% mix’ then this will allow them to select people who are qualified, or can become qualified for the role rather than put the wrong people on the board. We have to be realistic that it won’t happen overnight, but the advantages and experiences we can bring to the table are valuable to companies!”
Several commented on the importance of people being judged on merit rather than on their gender. But one woman said it was because people were not judged on merit that there were not diverse boards. She stated: “Women, Black and minority ethnic people are disproportionately under represented on the higher echelons of society. Yet if interviewers mentored, trained, employed people on ABILITY rather than on the usual stereotyping of individuals, the boardroom would be more reflective of society.”
The issue of diversity in UK boardrooms has received a lot of publicity since Lord Davies put forward targets of 25% for women on boards by 2015 and because the European Union is considering whether to impose quotas. Britain is said to have recently signed a letter arguing against quotas.
According to the latest figures from the Professional Boards Forum, 44% of board appointments to FTSE 100 companies since 1 March have been women, but all have been non-executive directors.
The survey shows 35% of appointments to the UK’s 250 biggest companies have been women, with only 12% of new executive directors being women. Female representation on boards currently stands at 17.5% for FTSE 100 companies, up from 12.5% in 2010, and at 11.3% for FTSE 250 companies, up from 7.8%. There are still eight all-male boards on the FTSE 100 and 94 on the FTSE 250 (37.6%).
Lynne Berry OBE will speak about women’s career progression and what can be done to improve female representation on UK boards at this year’s Workingmums.co.uk Top Employer Awards on 8th November. Berry, a former chief executive of the Equal Opportunities Commission who is now Director of Public Benefit and Deputy Chair of the new Waterways Charity, has been taking part in Cass Business School’s seminar series for outstanding female chief executives interested in serving on private sector boards.
Commenting on the poll Gillian Nissim, founder of Workingmums.co.uk, said: “We can understand the argument in favour of quotas and we are pleased that the setting of targets appears to have acted as a spur to action. The threat of quotas being imposed also seems to have increased media attention on the issue and to have pushed it up organisations’ priority lists.
“However, we believe that rather than imposing quotas from above, the best course of action is to build from the grassroots up and to promote a good female talent pipeline so that there are enough women who are board ready. That means ensuring women do not drop out of the workforce and understanding and addressing the issues that can often stand in the way of women’s career progression.”