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Watch out for the derisive alliterative dismissals of  “boardroom babes.” Now that both the Norwegians and the French have been brave enough to consider legislation to oblige companies to stop their rampant discrimination, will Britain at last follow?

You can just imagine the howls of anguish and sexist comments from the city, the CBI, let alone Lord Alan Sugar or heaven forbid , Jeremy Clarkson.

“A much needed electric shock” is how a leading French politician regards the latest legislation now before his country’s parliament. The government intends to impose gender equality in the boardrooms of the male-dominated French business world.

Earlier this year I asked whether “a quota for women at the top” is the only answer to avoid wasting a large proportion of the UKs talented working population? Now, taking a leaf out of the Norwegian’s book we have the French similarly concluding that, without direct action it could be decades or more for women to obtain a fair deal at the top.

But is legislation so unreasonable since the facts about our wasted female talent are so shameful? Just over one in ten (11%) of the FTSE 100 company directors are women. One in ten! This compares with now 44% in Norway since it legislated in 2003, and the intended French aim of 40% within four years.

Suddenly the UK could start looking old hat and doddery as it trundles along its present ignominious path of ignoring women as potential leaders at the highest levels of organisations. Put more brutally, can the UK actually afford not to take action?

One view from a Norwegian economist Anton Mork is that forcing the pace of change in Norway has meant “too many talented female business leaders are now spending most of their time in board meetings — with some women sitting on up to a dozen different boards. The law has spawned a growing class of what might be considered professional board sitters, which some in Norway have nicknamed "the Golden Skirts."

Presumably having female “professional board sitters” is more offensive than the present position in Britain of an excess of male ones instead.

Veronique Preaux Cobti, a leading French business woman says that after years of goodwill with no change, there is a real realisation that things are not going to change on their own.

Which brings us back to the UK. In the next few years the UK will need every ounce of talent it can call on to enable us to pay off our huge debts and find a better balance in our economy between services and manufacturing.

Wasting half our talent is no way to continue. Put simply, more women being appointed as top leaders is either part of the solution or it will certainly remain part of the problem.

see also Skirting the Issues: Why Aren’t Women Making it to the Board