Debate: With only three female CEOs in the FTSE 100, should the Government introduce quotas for women in boardrooms?


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What's going on?

Writing in Independent Voices today, Margareta Pagano calls for the introduction of quotas for women in British boardrooms to address the male-heavy bias.

In FTSE 100 companies only 17.3 per cent of board members are women, and just 3 firms have female chief executives. The way forward, says Pagano, is to follow the Nordic model - which raised the proportion of women in boardrooms from 7 per cent to 40 per cent - and bring in quotas.

Case for: Breakthrough

For years there has been talk of how we should be seeing be a stronger female presence in boardrooms, and although this is increasing very slightly, it isn’t enough. Women are now dominating the middle levels in some career paths – but there’s still a distinct lack of female presence at boardroom level. The Cranfield report has shown that there are only 18 women executive directors in Britain's top boardrooms, and 292 men. The fact is, top level equality isn’t happening by itself, so a quota would mandate that far from being token spots, women get their much-deserved place at the top.

Case against: Bias

One does not have to be a chauvinist dinosaur to find the idea of quotas uncomfortable. Affirmative action jars with the ruthlessly competitive nature of successful private enterprise. It is the best product that succeeds in the market-place, so why should that not also hold true for the make-up of boards? The best candidate - regardless of gender - should get the job. To insitutionalise bias in favour of women could lead to discord on gender lines throughout entire companies.