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A British Compromise On Quotas And A Party

Posted on July 7, 2011 at 1:35 PM

Three W00ts for Diana Wallis. She's the British Liberal Democrat Member of the European Parliament who has come up with a compromise on quotas for women on boards of plcs in the European Union. Her idea is that you impose quotas for a limited period of time, and then momentum kicks in.

I think this is a brilliant solution and one that could win the argument. The European parliament has now called for EU- wide legislation to ensure that supervisory boards consist of at least 40% women directors by 2020. I'm not sure what they'll make of at that many institutions - for some reason, Deutsche Bank comes to mind.

The FT has the story, and reports that the resolution was passed by a wide margin - 534 votes for, 109 against and 29 abstaining. There are just over 10% female directors at the moment in large listed companies in the EU.

As the FT makes clear, plans put forward by the Commission are likely to meet with "stiff resistance from national governments, which will ultimately have to agree to quotas before they come into effect - either by a large majority or unanimously, depending on the precise nature of the measures."

So what better than a very British proposal for compromise? If you make quotas mandatory for a few years it gives an 'out' in case they don't seem to be working well, it could draw in those who - rightly in my view - shudder at the Pandora's Box they could open because in this case they know it could be shut again - AND it also allows huge potential for creating a 'wave' of decent appointments, and setting good examples.

And speaking of 'waves', why is it that all the best invitations come just when you're about to run away briefly for a break? I'm very sorry to miss the launch party of Peninah Thomson's new book 'Women And The New Business Leadership' , which is excellent reading for those who believe in the prospects for change in the UK's boardrooms, and required reading for those who don't.

Dick Olver, chairman of BAE Systems plc, is supporting the launch party on July 13th in London, with more than a dozen chairmen of FTSE-100 companies in attendance. I shall raise an Italian glass in absentia and it had better be sunny.

Categories: Women, Quotas, Chairmen