Amanda Jobbins: Companies <i>should</i> be subject to quotas for female directors

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The Independent Online

The issue of quotas to compel UK business to increase the number of female directors on their boards – in line with similar initiatives in Norway, France and Spain – can only have a positive effect.

Over the past 10 years in the UK, directorships held by women in the FTSE 100 have increased from 5.8 per cent to 12.5 per cent, according to a study by Cranfield. However, at this rate the Equality and Human Rights Commission estimates that it will take 73 years before there are equal numbers of women and men in the FTSE 100 boardrooms.

Traditionally, many women in senior positions have opposed quotas on the grounds that we should achieve seniority on the basis of our own merits and, while I wholly agree all roles should be appointed on merit, it's the definition of merit that needs changing.

At Cisco in the UK 40 per cent of our UK board is comprised of females and we are driving many diversity initiatives.

A key issue is the behavioural and mindset change required. To change business recruiting and promotional trajectories, to ensure companies have women at senior levels, is simply going to take too long and there are many reasons, not least the ethical ones, to speed up that progress... Quotas will achieve that acceleration.

Amanda Jobbins is Cisco's vice-president of European technology and corporate marketing