Female quotas for Britain’s boardrooms?

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Prime Minister David Cameron was lambasted for failing to rule out the introduction of female quotas into top FTSE boardrooms when speaking at the Stockholm summit yesterday.

Almost exactly a year ago, Lord Davies launched his independent review into Women on Boards. His report recommended that UK listed companies in the FTSE 100 should aim to have a minimum of 25% women board members by 2015.

One year on from the Davies report, the figures show a steady, but fairly modest increase. Board Watch recently reported that the percentage of female board directors of FTSE 100 companies has risen from 12.5% in 2010 to currently 15%. For FTSE 250 companies, the figure is 9.4%, up from 7.8%. This is set against a background of roughly half the working population being female.

Board Mentoring report that only 56% of FTSE 100 companies state they have a policy on boardroom diversity, and only 33 companies have set themselves targets for the percentage of women on their boards, a mere 10 of which are greater than a 10% increase.

All agree it would benefit British businesses to have more women in their boardrooms, but nothing sparks as much controversy as the question of whether we should follow Scandinavia and introduce quotas to remedy the situation.

Lord Davies did not recommend introducing any last year, but said that the government would reserve the right to introduce more prescriptive alternatives if the recommended business-led approach did not achieve significant change. Is it too soon to do so now? Would quotas be helpful? The debate has opened up once again.
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