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Norway, Quotas, + Progress On UK Boards

Posted on August 22, 2011 at 7:05 PM

Do we need to pay more attention to Norway ?

The first to introduce quotas for female board members in 2003, the country is now considering extending the 40% quota for plcs to include unlisted companies under possible legislation next year. You can read all about it in today's FTfm, or if you have access, here at FT.com.

Norway has set an example already followed by others, and the piece  points out that similar policies are about to be introduced in the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Malaysia (quoting GlobeWomen, a female-only lobby group.)

I couldn't belong to GlobeWomen, but I do weep at the wastage of female talent. The danger of course is that quotas result in box-ticking, rather than addressing the needs of plcs. And then the whole attempt at greater equality backfires in spectacular fashion, resulting in recrimination, and major steps backwards.

To state the obvious: men and women are individuals set apart by gender alone. Then ability comes into it. And cultural differences between countries can play some part in the levelling of the playing field when it comes to appointments. But so can education, public policy , the appointments process and government pressure.

The UK's coalition government must be pleased with Lord Davies of Abersoch. Since his review on women in the UK's boardrooms in February, Britain's biggest companies have doubled the number of women they are recruiting to their boards, according to research by the Observer newspaper. But it is still slow progress.

This has been achieved by using the threat of quotas, and a lot of subtle - and not so subtle - peer pressure. We may have a European Union (of sorts) but every country is (mercifully) very different.

Knowing what we know now, about what works in the UK - and how fast - I look forward to hearing what Lord Davies has to say in his six-month review. By then we will also have the submissions of the biggest firms as to their intentions on appointing women in the future.

We will also have the results of the Financial Reporting Council(FRC's) consultation on making gender diversity a part of the corporate governance code. According to the Observer story mentioned above, some 55 of the total submissions to the FRC have said that it should, indeed, inject a clause into its corpporate governance code on gender diversity.

Among respondents who are investors, the figure is apparently 90%. Let's make sure we listen.

Categories: Quotas, Women, Measurement