Quotas for women on boards of directors is an emotive topic in certain quarters and I’ve incurred wrath, on more than one occasion, for not wearing this particular badge of sisterhood.
The thinking is that the scales of appointment in the UK are tipped firmly in favour of men and that the only way enough women can be appointed to boards is for there to be a requirement to appoint a minimum number of women – 30% is a figure that’s often used. Some boards already have that proportion of women, but others don’t, and women are particularly under-represented on boards of FTSE100 companies.
I agree that there should be more women on boards, but I don’t agree that a quota system is the way to get there. I wouldn’t want to be appointed to a board to meet a quota; I’d want to be appointed because I was the best person to fill the relevant position. And being appointed because you’re the best person to fill a post should engender confidence to hit the ground running, rather than spending the first year trying to prove yourself or win over fellow-directors who could be excused for having doubts about your appointment.
Women are good enough to be appointed to boards without quotas and they should have the confidence to believe that. Playing to and presenting their skills, developing networks and being willing to create an impact often represent a Rubicon for women, but one that can be crossed and organisations like Women on Boards can help with this. Charm is also a powerful tool and remembering to wield the iron fist in a velvet glove never went amiss.
But the message is that women can do this job and they should believe that. The quota system is a crutch that women don’t need to rely on.