Last week’s decision by the European Commission to significantly water down plans for legally-binding quotas in order to boost the number of women on company boards has met with a mixed response.
Katja Hall, chief policy director at employer lobby group, the CBI said that employers would be “relieved that the Commission had listened to their concerns”.
Ann Francke, chief executive at the Chartered Management Institute likewise believed that, while the under representation of women at board level had to change, the introduction of mandatory quotas was not the way to do it.
But Fiona Hoston Moore, a partner at accountancy firm, Reeves, and a campaigner for enforceable quotas, disagreed. She described the EC’s proposals as “very weak” and, because they fell “disappointingly short of what are needed to redress the bias against women” would only encourage “more tokenism”.
Heather White, founder of Non Exec Women, puts the whole debate on a wider and deeper footing:
“I don’t think this is necessarily about quotas or non-quotas. The great mass of Non Exec roles are outside the FTSE 350 and in my view that is where the bulk of the work needs to be done. Non Exec Women have just commissioned a comprehensive survey that shows there are many perceived barriers to becoming a Non Exec – and in practice most of those are about perception as much as reality.
“We have to help well-qualified candidates to become Non Exec Directors, perhaps as Trustees and Volunteers, to build up a sustainable pipeline of talented Non Exec Women. Our survey has shown some fascinating reasons why females want to be Non-Execs – and a very real need to help people achieve those positions. It’s clear from the survey that we need to facilitate a dialogue between organisations and potential Non Exec females – that is the practical way forward.”