My colleague, Mui Li – has responded to the ‘using quotas to balance boardrooms’ debate with this blog…

While we all recognise that gender equality within the traditional boardrooms of UK business is a problem, a new light was recently thrown onto the issue, when the intriguing question was posed: Would quotas actually solve the issue of inequality in UK boardrooms?

According to reports, any kind of government-forced ruling to increase women into the boardroom has now been ruled out by the former business minister Lord Davies – who is leading the investigation into boardroom inequality. Yet that still doesn’t stop us from exploring the issue a little more.

To push it along a bit, I’ve put together three of the likely debates that will emerge from this question, and tried to offer some balanced expertise.

Would it be appropriate to have quotas to ensure adequate numbers of women on corporate boards?

Pro – Quotas would be a way of counteracting the gender discrimination women face in the workplace: penalties for motherhood; inferior pay for same / similar work. It would be some way of getting suitable women in the top positions.
Con – But, if you try to label this, it is simply another form of discrimination. It is not putting the best person in the job. It is inequality.

Would these quotas benefit women at work?

Pro – Considering that the usual barriers to promotion are gone, women would be encouraged to better themselves in order to achieve the top positions.
Con – Being ‘gifted’ such positions might well lead to negative feelings from male colleagues who have not been given a chance. Also, the women themselves could hardly feel great at being in a position they have not got through merit.

Would these quotes be of benefit to companies?

Pro – Quotas would lead to fewer positions on boards for men, which would lead to them becoming more competitive, leading to higher standards and output of performance. Women have different skill sets to men, being better at selecting varied approaches to tasks and having superior communication skills, and being more circumspect in difficult times. This would lead to more balanced and effective boards.
Con – Women will wonder if they have been promoted for their gender, not their ability. Men may start to under-perform as they feel they are unlikely to be promoted in place of a woman. Companies should simply be free to promote the best people of either gender. Surely that’s what companies now do, they want the best. The current under-representation of women on corporate boards is simply down to there being better suited males.

Karen Murphy
Muika Leadership

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