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".


More on This Story

Women in the Workplace

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    My board of Directors has changed about eight times since we were privatised in 1994, with roughly 25% women at the top table at any one time. The strange thing is that neither the men nor the women seem to make any difference at all to the way the business is run, so maybe men and women should be discriminated against equally!

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Cameron makes an interesting political gesture. However, he needs to look at the whole "women in business" regime to ensure that women are given a fair chance to aspire to greater things. This involves equal sports funding in schools to universal child care child in early business years as well as smashing the existing glass ceiling into the boardroom and the prejudice that exists within. (Tim)

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    215. JessyeR so true. men want to pretend they're for equality. yet they disproportionately hate and dismiss anything women say about their own experiences. women complain about discrimination and their first reaction is to try and silence them. this is their idea of "post-feminism", not the end of unfairness. rather the claims that no inequality can exist since women can vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.


    The government blames you, your feckless in their eyes. But dont blame PC quota's or women...

    Your lack of payrise is because the person at the top is eating to much of the pie. Its amazing that 2010 saw the biggest profits EVER recorded in the US for private companies = Profit before people.

    Back to topic: I think people need educating on how our system works, or doesn't

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    Quotas are stupid.
    Positive discrimination is stupid and discriminatory.
    More women in the boardroom will not make any difference.
    People get to where they are due to hard work, business is mostly oblivious to whether an exec is male/female. Speaking as someone who works in a $100bn+ company with 100K+ staff I don't see glass ceilings. You cannot guarantee life results based on quotas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    *sarcasm warning*

    I don't mind working for a female boss ... as long she is hot. Oops am I being a sexist like our PM!?

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    I'm not being sexist or anything else but 'life at the top' can be tough (unless its an inheirited family business). Women can be as tough as men so if they really want to get there they should rely on their toughness and prove themselves ready for it rather than rely on the fact of their sex getting a job for them. Jobs are advertised to all and no-one should expect just to get one

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    218 plath.

    Sorry to hear you're a socialist, most likely due to the indoctrination you and I got through schol. I'm working class and on an apprenticeship, equality means for me that I got this job because I was what the company thought best suited me for, not because I fit a 'quota' or because government bureaucracy forced them to take me.
    You probably like Marx, read the other side, Rothbard.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    Genius plan!
    This is why Mr Cameron is PM. See he's got right to the heart of the problematic economy recession. Gender mix in the boardrooms.
    Why hasn't anyone got arond to realising this before?
    Don't tell me that no-one voted for a "vacant waste of space". There's good PR, a photo-shoot opportunity & a trip away from the country in this one.
    Mr Cameron - you'll surely go down in history.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    153. plath
    " those issues aren't feminisms fault. they're your own choices"

    Ahhh, there's that concern again for men. You've given me a lump in my throat, you really have.

    And, do you know what, the gender pay gap isn't due to sexism, it's down to WOMEN'S CHOICES.


  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Glad to see that we are bucking the trend, I am out numbered 2 to 1. Rob Taylor-Brown Attention to Retail Ltd.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    Men and women are different. Get over it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    @218. Plath

    "i'm so sorry that i believe in actual equality, not "equality" as defined by the dominant group. people who are against just want to maintain their privilege."

    So if you believe in Equality you must be against quotas, as that is plainly sexist.

    I doubt is somehow but it would be nice if you could clarify as I cannot find a post which explains your position on the point of this.

  • rate this

    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

    Comment number 223.

    No wonder people have lost interest in politics, when we only have the choice between to useless parties who live in some stupid pc bubble.

    Life is not fair, people are not equal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Being a CEO for a company is a massive deal, most people don't realise how many hours the top bosses actually work, i know my chief exec and president work early mornings till at least 7.30 at night! i know if i want kids it would be selfish for me to be or want to be a CEO/Director. wake up people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    I am white, male and 27 hard working and have not had a payrise or promotion since 08 - who/what do I blame?

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    "Comment number 215. JessyeR
    I agree totally with JB and look howe many people gave this comment the thumbs down - bet they're all men!"

    People, not just men, voted the comment down for the same reason that they're voting your comment down - because it's backed up by absolutely nothing except a sexist, patronising and childish ideology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    There was another political system which rather liked quotas.
    Ah yes, Communism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    202. JF i'm a socialist as well as feminist, i'm so sorry that i believe in actual equality, not "equality" as defined by the dominant group. people who are against just want to maintain their privilege. these are the same ones who deny there's any prejudice at all or expect us to believe they're equally invested in fighting it. other sections want to be repesented proportionally, that's fair too


Page 20 of 31


More Politics stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.