Does the UK need quotas to increase the number of women on the boards of firms? Please tell us what you think - and vote in our Facebook poll

(201 Posts)
JaneGMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 13-Nov-12 16:09:48

Hello,

We'd love to hear your opinions on the idea of quotas to increase the number of women on the boards of UK firms.

In the UK, the proportion of female directors at FTSE 100 companies has risen from 12.5% in 2010 to 15% in 2012.

There's some evidence to suggest that quotas may work; in Norway, where quotas were implemented in 2008, the figure rose from 7% on the boards of listed companies in 2003 to 42% in 2012.

So.... do we need quotas to push this figure closer to 50%? Or is it patronising to suggest that they're needed?

We'd love to hear your thoughts.

And we'd love it even more if you could please vote in our Facebook poll about this - it's a simple yes/no question so it'll only take a mo. And we'd be ever so grateful.

Many thanks,

MNHQ

TalkinPeace2 Tue 20-Nov-12 21:22:16

THE problem is that the women at the top are few and far between - and seem to manage LOTS of jobs each
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angela_Knight

and to anybody who argues that huge amounts of time are needed to be a board member of a listed company
WTF do you think your MP is doing then (look them up on duedil or here www.theyworkforyou.com/mps/)

TalkinPeace2 Tue 20-Nov-12 15:21:39

bah
wrong thread about sexism

TalkinPeace2 Tue 20-Nov-12 15:20:00

what is the average age of these "top" people
ie how many are just relics

FastidiaBlueberry Tue 20-Nov-12 15:18:24

Doctrine, it's also been shown that if you submit CV's with exactly the same info with women's names and men's names, men are more likely to get interviews.

And yet people are desperate to claim there's no problem of sexism any more.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 19-Nov-12 23:50:33

Link to blind audition study mentioned above by me:

www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/A94/90/73G00/

garlicbaguette Mon 19-Nov-12 23:42:21

women's choices are made in a sexist system which makes certain choices almost inevitable

Yes. It is not invisible. People prefer not to look, for some reason that's incomprehensible to me.

garlicbaguette Mon 19-Nov-12 23:38:03

sheer weight of numbers at the level from which appointments are made. Why aren't there equal numbers of men and women at this level?

MoreBeta answered this only a few posts up. He wrote:-

The bias only has to be very small to get the huge imbalance we see now in Board level positions.

Typically on graduate recruitment programmes there is a true 50:50 balance between the sexes but over a 30 year career before Board level is reached you only need to promote 2% more men per year than women and you will end up with almost exclusively men in top positions.

The bias is so small it is hard to detect but when it happens every single year of someones career it has huge cumulative impact. This is why young women often think they are being treated equally until about 10 years in and then suddenly they find out men their age are being paid far more and have been promoted higher up the ladder and at a faster pace. Then they have children and even if they come back to work find it really isnt worth the fight and many quite sensibly give up when teh second child comes along.

This is why we need quotas to counteract the built in bias in the system.

FastidiaBlueberry Mon 19-Nov-12 20:33:11

Sexism is preventing it.

And the problem is, sexism is so deeply ingrained that everyone denies it and pretends it's all about women's choices, when women's choices are made in a sexist system which makes certain choices almost inevitable, or at least a hell of a lot easier than others.

When we have no more sexism, we'll have no need of quotas.

BlueyDragon Mon 19-Nov-12 20:19:23

Fastidia, I think we're agreeing on the fact that there isn't a meritocracy now but disagreeing on how to achieve one. To my way of thinking, quotas don't normalise they patronise. To normalise the female voice what we need, surely, is sheer weight of numbers at the level from which appointments are made. Why aren't there equal numbers of men and women at this level? What's preventing it?

Bramshott Mon 19-Nov-12 16:30:42

Found it - being dim - sorry! Thanks MrsR

msrisotto Mon 19-Nov-12 13:14:48

Bramshott I can still see the poll, it's on the right hand side, next to the roses are red, wine is red photo.

TalkinPeace2 Mon 19-Nov-12 12:42:27

BUT THE THREAD IS ABOUT NON EXECS
or at least the EU report is
so its nothing to do with the hours culture and presenteeism
its all about getting listed companies and Plcs to have equal numbers of male and female NON exec directors on the board.

All else is a red herring until that issue has been dealt with
as numbers of female non execs will change the ethos of firms from the top

Want2bSupermum Mon 19-Nov-12 12:31:12

Handbag I think there are a few reasons for the long working hours. First of all to get the experience to enable one to perform at a high level requires dedication. Long hours alone are not enough to make it to the top. You need to put the hours in but you also have to perform too. Top consultants in the medical field don't get there coasting along working 35hr weeks and the business world is no different.

Then once you get there to do the job properly requires you put the hours in. My sister puts the hours in. You could say she has a flexible working arrangement but her work and life are very much intertwined and flexible working means she is still putting in 65+ hours a week. She is also here in the US working on the west coast. The pace is more relaxed so when you see her in costco at 10am on a Monday you don't know that she is working while she makes calls and is on her way into work. I would say she works more than 12 hours a day mid week and about 5-6hrs a day at the weekends.

The other issue is that to achieve the results from ones ideas requires long hours. In her last position my sister oversaw a new system be developed and installed. It was her baby and she worked really hard. It was almost the undoing of her. However, she learnt a lot from it. If she had job shared and worked less hours I don't think she would have learnt as much and her value would be less.

Bramshott Mon 19-Nov-12 10:53:04

Is the Facebook poll closed? I couldn't find it on the linked page.

HandbagCrab Mon 19-Nov-12 08:43:38

want2be why though? Why is it if you are capable of being a big fish you can only demonstrate this by working ridiculously long hours over a period of years where a lot of people have children? Are long hours really the only arbiter of being good enough to be a director?

Personally I prefer results and ideas than a person who works 100 hours a week. I think it stops a vast proportion of the workforce ever being considered for top jobs because they won't make the sacrifice of working 12 hours a day, every day. It certainly stops women getting there because we need to recover from giving birth and for some women that takes a lot longer than 2 weeks.

Also why should work be your life in 2012? We in theory should have loads of leisure time these days. We have lots of qualified, experienced people at the moment who can't get a job and lots of similar people in work, doing the hours of 2+ people as they are worried they might lose their job. It's so arse about face.

Want2bSupermum Mon 19-Nov-12 03:21:15

garlic UK borrowing has doubled because too much was borrowed in the first place and subsequently not spent in the right places. Borrowing has increased mainly because tax revenues have dropped and the UK has not reduced spending (not that they should) to a sustainable level given the income funds from taxation. This is part of the normal business cycle. The other reason for the increase in borrowing is that the cost of debt has increased (we are paying interest on interest) and we are paying for stupid decisions such as PFI contracts which are completly unsustainable.

I will also say that there were women who tried to sleep to the top. It gets you to middle management and while it might get you onto the boardroom table it doesn't get you onto the board of directors.

handbagcrab It is very very difficult to make it to the top only working 40-50 hours per week. The point of the board of directors is that you are there to represent the owners of the business. My sister is on a board of a smaller private business (revenue of $30 million a year) through her old job in private equity and she is very invovled. As a non-exec board member she is contracted to work 1 day a month but works probably 24-30 hours a month and 48-72 hours at month end. She does this in addition to her regular job where she heads up a finance division. In her regular job she is available at any time as her division operates globally. My father was on a few boards and worked around the same hours for non-exec positions (he held a max. of 4 at any one time) and was a full time board member on one board only because he didn't have enough time to do more.

With regards to a bias, there might be a small bias but I don't think that is the reason why so many women are not making it to senior management. I think if you look at the performance of women in the workplace there is an issue once children arrive. Women are working less hours at their place of employment compared to men once children arrive. I believe this is the biggest obstacle to women advancing in the workplace.

Flexible working arrangements are great but it does normally result in you not getting the experience to make it to the top. Nothing wrong with flexible working, but don't expect to make it to board level.

FastidiaBlueberry Sun 18-Nov-12 23:27:40

But until we get quotas, we won't get the meritocracy we need and deserve, because men are being over-promoted because they are men, now. It's happening now, it's not in the future, it's not something that might happen some time a long way off, it's actually happening right now as we speak and no one is alarmed about it they way they are alarmed by the potential that sometimes, a woman who doesn't deserve the job might be promoted above a man who does.

This happens all the time the other way round and we call it a meritocracy and it isn't, it's a system of unconscious positive discrimination in favour of men. That's why we need quotas, so that that female disadvantage is reduced. It won't of course, stop completely, because women also assume that men are better than women and set the bar for them to be considered competent lower than for women - but it will reduce the inbuilt bias towards promoting men a little bit and it will normalise female voices and outlooks on the board.

Which must be terrifying for some people because when female voices are heard and normalised, the world changes. And blimey we need to change the world.

BlueyDragon Sun 18-Nov-12 23:09:38

It's not an assumption that a less able candidate will get the position if there's a quota, that's how it has to work to get the quota filled. If you as a recruiting person are presented with a male candidate and a female candidate and you have a quota to fill, you end up in a position where you are forced to favour the candidate who comes with a quota attached. I'm not suggesting for one minute that men are better than women on a general basis (or indeed vice versa), but the situation can still arise where the male candidate is the better option and a quota creates a bias against the better candidate. So the quota system is discredited. I agree that the current system is far from perfect and can put less able men in positions they should not have, but I don't think that quotas address the questions I posed above and until those are answered we won't get the meritocracy we need, want and deserve.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 18-Nov-12 14:49:09

Well said, Fastidia.

The example of the screened auditioning of orchestral players could be used here.

MoreBeta Sun 18-Nov-12 12:41:48

The bias only has to be very small to get the huge imbalance we see now in Board level positions.

Typically on graduate recruitment programmes there is a true 50:50 balance between the sexes but over a 30 year career before Board level is reached you only need to promote 2% more men per year than women and you will end up with almost exclusively men in top positions.

The bias is so small it is hard to detect but when it happens every single year of someones career it has huge cumulative impact. This is why young women often think they are being treated equally until about 10 years in and then suddenly they find out men their age are being paid far more and have been promoted higher up the ladder and at a faster pace. Then they have children and even if they come back to work find it really isnt worth the fight and many quite sensibly give up when teh second child comes along.

This is why we need quotas to counteract the built in bias in the system.

garlicbaguette Sun 18-Nov-12 11:52:25

Well said, Fastidia.

garlicbaguette Sun 18-Nov-12 11:51:20

I think as well it could be used as an opportunity to look critically at the reasons why people are where they are and whether the skills and qualities they have are the best ones for success

Another very good point, HandbagCrab. In a recent discussion on here, a Mumsnetter told how she'd been part of a team that reviewed the review process for high-flying candidates in her organisation. They found that the men had been (probably unconsciously?) subjected to lower expectations than the women throughout the evaluation process, leading to an apparently unbiased skew towards men for promotion.

The evaluation data showed that men were generally more competent. It was only queried when a (male) reviewer observed that the women were statistically unlikely to be clustered towards the bottom of quite so many curves. This is the sort of thing that feminists mean by systemic oppression.

It reminds me, somehow, of the Enron firing quota. Each year, the bottom 15% (iirc) of traders would be fired. On the face of it, this was a brutally efficient means of ensuring high performance standards. In reality it achieved a floor full of management parrots - traders who asked too many questions would be given less profitable accounts or sectors, and excluded from certain information loops, thus making it harder for them to achieve average results.

FastidiaBlueberry Sun 18-Nov-12 11:45:46

Garlicbaguette is absolutely right, people always say that women only got the job because of something which has nothing to do with competence - shagged the chairman, has big breasts, is good friends with xyz - the sexism and undermining women face is there anyway, without quotas.

Every time a woman hears someone say that another woman only got the job because of xyz, she should point out that most men only got the job because they are men.

The assumption that if we apply quotas we'll get sub-standard women, is itself a sexist one. We regularly get sub-standard men, men who if they did not have penises would never have got the job, but no-one notices because the assumption that men are competent and have the right to be in leadership positions is deeply ingrained while the assumption that women who do so are "intruders on the rights of men" is also deeply ingrained.

Women have to be miles better than their male counterpart to get a leadership position. This is wrong. We should be able to be as mediocre as men are and still have the opportunities they do.

garlicbaguette Sun 18-Nov-12 11:31:52

Rather sadly, I heard these same arguments when quotas were first applied in public services - only, then, it was about "blacks".

There's an added twist on this: there will always be those who claim, "She only got the job because they needed to make up the numbers". Currently, they claim "She only got the job because she shagged the chairman". I fail to see how that lends her authority.

HandbagCrab Sun 18-Nov-12 11:28:26

I work in a school and apart from the head all senior leadership are female.

The women that are closer to retirement who are senior leaders have grown up children.The younger ones in their 30s do not have families and work is their lives. I feel this is the consequence of current working practices we have. I can be as brilliant as you like but I can't magic away my ds and I would not want to.

I don't want to work 100 hour weeks, I want to be a rounded, relaxed person who is good at a job say 40-50 hours a week full time or 25-30 hours a week part time. I don't think a long hours, devotion to the job working culture is sustainable for most people in the long term and I don't think it's the best judge of whether someone is the best person for the job. I think there are other skills and qualities that are more important than an ability to put all other aspects of life to one side to focus on making money or output for your employer.

So I agree with quotas. I agree with the points made previously by other posters who agree with quotas. I think as well it could be used as an opportunity to look critically at the reasons why people are where they are and whether the skills and qualities they have are the best ones for success or if other traits which are not necessarily valued as much might be actually making more of a difference. We'd struggle to answer that question at the moment because the people who 'make it' seem fairly homogenous.

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