David Cameron won't rule out women in boardrooms quotas

 
David Cameron with other leaders at the Nordic-Baltic summit Encouraging women in business is a central theme of the two-day summit in Sweden

David Cameron has said he will not "rule out quotas" as a way of getting more women into top executive jobs.

At a summit in Sweden, the PM said he wanted to "accelerate" the increase in women on the boards of top UK firms, preferably without resorting to quotas.

A government-commissioned report urged top firms to more than double the number of women on boards by 2015.

Research suggests the proportion of female directors at FTSE 100 companies has risen from 12.5% in 2010 to 15%.

Mr Cameron told Nordic-Baltic leaders their countries were "leading the way in Europe" on the issue of women in top executive jobs. In Sweden, women hold a quarter of boardroom posts. In Norway, where quotas came into force in 2008, it is 40%.

During a discussion he cited the figure of 30% as a likely target for women on British boards.

He said he would like to boost numbers "preferably without having quotas" but said he would not rule them out "if we cannot get there by other means".

Start Quote

If we fail to unlock the potential of women in the labour market, we're not only failing those individuals, we're failing our whole economy”

End Quote David Cameron

He told the meeting of eight other European leaders that the "case is overwhelming that companies and countries run better if you have men and women working together at the top".

Securing promotion for women and encouraging female entrepreneurs is one of the two key themes of the Northern Future Forum summit in Stockholm.

Earlier Mr Cameron said the drive for more women in top business roles "is not simply about equal opportunity, it's about effectiveness".

"The evidence is that there is a positive link between women in leadership and business performance, so if we fail to unlock the potential of women in the labour market, we're not only failing those individuals, we're failing our whole economy."

"So I want to get ideas in Stockholm that we can take back to London to explore if they could help us get more women into British boardrooms, boosting profits and contributing to the economic growth we all urgently need."

'Warm words'

Downing Street later said the government had no plans to introduce quotas and wanted the impetus to come from business.

The PM's spokesman added that the government was working with business to encourage the promotion of women onto boards.

But Unison union general secretary Dave Prentis said Mr Cameron's "warm words won't fool women".

"The unemployment figures don't lie - they expose how hard women are being hit by heavy public sector job losses, and the lack of private sector job growth. Tory cuts are also depriving women of the low-cost childcare they rely on to stay in work."

Among the British delegation in Stockholm was the head of Downing Street's Behavioural Insight Team - better known as the "Nudge" unit - David Halpern.

Nudge theory is seen as a way of encouraging behavioural change without resorting to bans or increased regulation. BBC political correspondent Robin Brant said that was clearly the favoured route for the government in getting more women on boards.

In the last year, 27% of board-level appointments at FTSE 100 companies have gone to female applicants, but one in 10 of Britain's biggest firms still have all-male boards.

At present, 15% of FTSE 100 directors are women.

The government-commissioned Davies report last year said quotas should be imposed unless top firms acted to increase the number of women on their boards to at least one in four by 2015.

A book published by two Conservative MPs - including Matthew Hancock, a close ally of Chancellor George Osborne - called for a 30% target backed by state-imposed sanctions if progress was not made quickly.

But Home Secretary Theresa May, who is also minister for women and equalities, told MPs recently: "The best way to get change is to do it in a way which isn't imposing a quota on a company but is encouraging people to recognise the talents within those companies."

She said the government was monitoring progress made since the Davies' report was published last year and would "work with companies to encourage them to use the talent within them".

 

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  • rate this
    +27

    Comment number 397.

    Gender quotas are madness. NO ONE should be hired or denied a job based on their gender. If a woman does get an executive position it should be because she is the best person for the job as an individual, not as a woman and certainly not because the government demanded it.

  • rate this
    +27

    Comment number 368.

    I never want a job where there is a quota - I want to feel that I got the job on merit, and have the respect given to me to match. If quotas are put in place this is descriminatory to males and every female in a senior position would be considered less worthy than their male counterparts until she proved she was better.

  • rate this
    +22

    Comment number 239.

    I'm all in favour of more women on boards and in positions of influence generally. But ask any very successful woman, and I am fortunate enough to know a few, they will all tell you on balance they are against quotas. Its very important for them to know they have achieved on merit alone. I'll hear what successful women have to say on this subject before David Cameron any day.

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 224.

    Cameron: If we fail to unlock the potential of women in the labour market, we're not only failing those individuals, we're failing our whole economy.”
    You can't just take an unprepared female & dump her in a boardroom to fill a quota. You need to address those factors that hold females back e.g. starting families, inadequate daycare, employment gaps caused thereby.

  • rate this
    +40

    Comment number 216.

    Why does no one ever highlight the huge gender disparagy between Lorry Drivers. Only 1 in 187 lorry drivers is female (source: Independent 2009).

    We need to accept that some jobs are more appealing to different types of people, and as a result every single job is not a reflection of society as a whole.

 

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