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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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PM refuses to rule out ‘golden skirt quotas’ of 30%


The Prime Minister has said he will not rule out introducing so-called ‘gold skirt quotas’ as a means of boosting the number of women at board level.

At the Northern Future Forum summit in Sweden today, David Cameron said that he wanted to “accelerate” the amount of high-level female representation and, while it should happen “preferably without having quotas”, he would not rule them out “if we cannot get there by other means”.
According to the BBC, he told a meeting in Stockholm of eight Nordic and Baltic leaders that the “case is overwhelming that companies and countries run better if you have men and women working together at the top”.
In Sweden, females hold about a quarter of all boardroom posts, while in Norway, where quotas were introduced in 2008, the figure is more like 40%.
Cameron had said previously that one of his aims in attending the summit was to “get ideas” that could be explored at home in order to “help us get more women into British boardrooms, boosting profits and contributing to the economic growth we all urgently need”.
He added that UK business leaders had not made “sufficient” progress in ensuring that more women got senior boardroom jobs, indicating that a figure of 30% representation would be a likely target.
Today, the proportion of females at the top table in FTSE 100 companies is about half that. But both of these figures contrast with the target of 25% (by 2015) put forward by Lord Davies in his Review last February.
Long-term cultural change
Research by headhunting firm, Norman Broadbent, meanwhile, claimed that it would take FTSE 100 companies until 2017 and FTSE 250 firms until 2019 to hit Lord Davies’ target because the current pace of change was too slow.
Among the former, some 26% of all non-executive director appointments and 9% of executive director posts were taken up by women this year, while the figures were more like 24% and 7% among the latter. As result, the percentage of women on the board in FTSE 100 firms has now risen by 16% to 14.9% and in FTSE 250 companies by 18% to 9.4%.
The best performing sectors were retail, technology, media and health, but all-male boards were still the norm in industrial fields, the report found.
Neil Holmes, director of Norman Broadbent’s board practice, told the Daily Telegraph: “We are finding that women are appearing on shortlists, but the supply on the executive side is still lower than it should be and this requires companies to invest in long-term cultural change.”
In news elsewhere, the TUC warned that up to 1.8 million low-earning women could be excluded from pensions auto-enrolment under proposals to raise the earnings threshold from £7,475 per year to £10,000 in order to bring it in line with the income tax personal allowance.
About 500,000 male workers could also be affected by the move, the union umbrella body added.
As a result, it called on the government to freeze the earnings level at which auto-enrolment could be triggered to ensure that low-paid workers were not excluded – although they still have the choice to opt into a pension scheme if they so desire.

One Response

  1. Dainelle McCormick of Thomas Eggar LLP responds to the proposals

    Is it really the case that the only way to increase the numbers of women reaching board level is to introduce a quota? If this is true then it is a sad indictment of what the business world has become. Although there is an argument that the ‘blunt stick’ of  positive discrimination will satisfy the number crunchers as it is bound to result in more women sitting on boards, we need to delve deeper than this and  question whether quotas will result in women acquiring board level positions because they are qualified for the job and not to simply to satisfy a box ticking exercise. The importance of this is enormous; so as to prevent boards from being filled with women who merely have notional roles as opposed to having a real voice or opportunity to positively impact the strategy and day to day running of a business. 

    We understand that change can be a slow process as it is often reliant on external social factors, such as the recent increases we have seen in the numbers of stay at home Dads which has freed up some women in middle income families to strive for the top positions.  Therefore, surely the correct approach is to educate and encourage women to enter into business with a goal of reaching board level based on a qualitative assessment as opposed to one of compliance necessity?  

    At Thomas Eggar women are encouraged as equally as men to aspire for the top positions in the business and our statistics in terms of the numbers of female partners across the business demonstrate this is the case. A recent diversity survey showed that almost 60% of our fee earners are female, whilst 33.3% of the partnership is made up of women. We recognise that the market is slowly changing and the number of women running successful businesses and reaching board level is increasing which is why we launched Marzipan* our cross industry network to encourage more women to move through the ranks to board level and join the next generation of business leaders through mentoring and knowledge sharing across a wide variety of sectors.

    Danielle McCormick, Associate, Thomas Eggar LLP


    *To find out more about Marzipan search on LinkedIn for ‘Marzipan Layer’


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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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