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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  • Comment number 377.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.


    Agreed my example of the Dr is stupid but shows the stupidity of quotas when applied incorrectly or inappropriately as in a blanket law.


    Sorry for not getting back to you - work has caught me. Hopefuly given you something to think on though.

    Night all

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    366. NGK
    "@353.indiansummer42 - and so you have turned from merely denying there is any inequality against women,"

    Not true.

    " to making sexist statements about them."

    Also untrue. I said it made 'as much sense as'.

    And, for the 5th time of posting:


    Feminists should stop whining.

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    Totally agree with Kirstal Tips, Comment 368. I would like to feel that I earned a position on the board if that is what I wanted. Private companies who use shareholders' and not public money should not be told what to do and given quotas. This is supposed to be a free society. Introducing these quotas actually takes away equality and competition within a company and no one will try anymore.

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    If you start on this slippery slope Dave, we all know where it will end up. We seem to be under represented at boardroom level for disabled Afro-Caribbean transgendered individuals. How about a quota?

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.


  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    Gender on the board is irrelevant, it is about good hard working honest people who have the right skill to drive a business. I would rather a good board chosen on merit than a mixed up or deficient board unable to function well because it is has had some quota imposed by law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 370.

    I can't stand any kind of disrimination of favouritism in any form, If someone is the best candidate for a position then obviously they should get it. LABOUR were using positive discrimination (quotas) when they were in goverment and all it did was put the wrong people in jobs and lead to a public sector that is largely not fit for purpose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 369.

    Quotas make women sound like FISH. I wonder if there will be a European Direcctive on how many women should be in the top jobs.

  • rate this

    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

    Comment number 367.

    @349. Davetheknave

    Blaming the financial crisis on men because most bankers are men makes about as much sense as blaming world overpopulation on women as they give birth to all the babies, or blaming all wars on men as they are the majority of soldiers who fight and kill and get maimed and die in wars.

    In other words, it is misandry - casually dealt out, never noticed, as usual.

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    @353.indiansummer42 - and so you have turned from merely denying there is any inequality against women, to making sexist statements about them. Please show evidence towards your claim that women caused the current economic crises. Failing that, please educate yourself on the issue - do you really feel there is no gender pay gap, or that women are not given jobs because they are women?

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    Quotas are not the answer.

    It's very odd that Cameron should say that executive pay is a matter for shareholders, but executive male-to-female ratios could be imposed by legislation.

    When making appointments, the best person should get the job. Trying to 'redress the imbalance' by quotas or discriminatory legislation is not the way forward.

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    Interesting to see the number of contributors who don't understand what equality means...particularly those who have no concept of what positive discrimination means. Some think it means discrimination. I wouldn't lose sleep over this - Cameron can't sort out issues like exec bonuses for publicly owned companies, let alone something like female representation in business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    339 Little_Old_Me - So basically if the quotas don't count for Doctors as you would not employ a female doctor who is not qualified just to make up the numbers, is your comment not proving that quotas are nonsense? That is the same for any job at the top, if there are no women who show interest in the jobs who are qualified, the quotas are irrelevant. Like when Labour put targets on adoptions????

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    Quotas will force companies to hire mediocre women at the expense of more qualified men that's why its dicriminatory. Explain to me what this balance is that you think is such a wonderful thing, what's the causal link that makes this balance so desirable, equality does not exsit and it never will because talent/ability is not directly proportional to population (inconvenient truth).

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    oh no positive discrimination,
    well i live and breathe
    what ever happened to diversity and equality for all
    yet again men are being discriminated against,
    well let the women have all the jobs
    i will stop at home and watch my bottom get bigger

    if you did offer them all the work they would run a mile and find as many excuses not to go out to work full time
    stupid idea david

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.


    What do you want me to do about the inequality, genetically modify women so they don't have wombs?

  • Comment number 359.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    I'm totally for equality - 100%, but quotas and the like are not the way forward.

    Quotas across the board create ridiculous and even more improbable scenarios than what they set out to diminish.

    Does anyone remember the expense shelled out to develop fire-fighter uniforms for Muslim women - because of a quota?


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