Women on the Board – as proposed by Richard Branson

Having recently been involved in many discussions about women in senior management positions and on the boards of companies, I intended writing an article on the subject. However, when I was sent the article below via my Twitter feed, I decided to reproduce Richard Branson‘s words from an article in Entrepreneur.com. This represents a first for this blog. I add more comment at the end.

“I recently watched 12 Angry Men — that classic 1957 film about a jury struggling to decide the fate of an 18-year-old man who has been charged with murder. The movie gives you a sense of how the legal system worked in the United States back then, when juries were less diverse. By today’s standards, we would find it unsettling if a jury were comprised of 12 middle-aged white men. So why have so many business leaders been slow to take notice when women are absent from the boards of their companies?

In most developed nations, the percentage of women in the labour force has increased dramatically since the 1950s. When 12 Angry Men was produced, less than a third of American workers were female, whereas today, the U.S. Department of Labor says that number now stands at 47 percent.

Despite this change, men are still much more likely than women to hold senior positions.

In particular, the ratio of female board members has lagged, with less than 14 percent of these positions at the largest companies filled by women, according to the European Commission. The numbers vary greatly from country to country across Europe: In Italy, only 6 percent of board members are women; in Spain and Belgium, 11 percent; in Germany, 16 percent; in France, 22 percent. The commission has been championing a planned EU law to impose sanctions on companies in the European Union if less than 40 percent of their board members are women.

I am not usually a fan of government involvement in private industry, but on this issue it seems to be needed. Norway took the lead in 2003 when its legislature passed a law requiring that at publicly listed companies, at least 40 percent of board members should be women. They were successful at meeting the 2008 target date, and since then the proportion of women on boards at Norwegian companies has risen to an encouraging 44 percent.

A study the British government commissioned on this problem recommended that by 2015, 25 percent of board members at the largest British companies should be women. The Cranfield School of Management recently reported that 50 percent now have more than one woman on their boards, but British companies still have a long way to go. The situation requires more than just a recommendation — whatever happened to leading with a persuasive argument? Simply for pragmatic reasons, business leaders need to take action.

Seventy percent of household purchasing decisions are made by women, according to the Boston Consulting Group. Those decisions are not just about grocery lists or kids’ clothes — women also choose big ticket items such as cars and vacations. So, if 50 percent of the staff at a company is female, and women drive 70 percent of the buying decisions for its products, what possible rationale can senior management have for leaving women out of the corporate decision-making process?

At Virgin, we have seen a number of women rise to senior positions over the years. At present, Virgin Money and Virgin Holidays are run by female CEOs and the person in the number two spot at Virgin Atlantic is a woman. There are many women in senior management at other Virgin companies, but we have much to do as an organization.

If you are looking to increase the number of women in leadership positions at your company, you might start by considering what opportunities female employees have for career advancement, and what barriers they may be encountering. Ask women from every area of your company about their experiences and for their advice.

Women often encounter gender-based stereotypes about who is qualified to do what kind of job, which can sometimes persist in subtle ways and must be challenged at every level. This may be addressed by offering female employees more flexible working conditions; in some cases, putting in place better policies for both maternity and paternity leaves may be a good start.

Fixing this injustice isn’t just good for your team: it’s good for business. Several studies have shown that gender equity in senior management and at the board level brings many tangible benefits. A report by the Credit Suisse Research Institute revealed that those firms dominated by men had recovered more slowly since the 2008 financial downturn than those with a more balanced male-female ratio.

So take a look at who’s sitting around your boardroom table. If you see 12 angry men, it’s time to write a new script.”

It still amazes me why so many men (and some women) are still against women’s promotion into senior management and appointment onto boards. Adding Richard Branson’s experience and knowledge to what many of us instinctively know as being right and proper practice, should it is time for all people to sit up and take note. Maybe those who question the value of women in decision making positions need to not only rewrite their script, perhaps they also need to take a close look at the origins of their pejorative, outdated and discriminatory views.

Equality Edge has developed the “Men in Management” project to support male leaders explore attitudes that drive their male behaviours in order to minimise any negative impact in the workplace. Maybe you or one of your colleagues would benefit from it.

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About equalityedge

I run Equality Edge and its unique and creative "Working with Difference" project. It supports employers and managers in gaining a competitive and cost saving advantage from meeting equality and diversity best practice obligations. Coaching and workshops are used to deliver organisational, team and leadership development, assisting in improving communication and the understanding of the impact difference has on workplace behaviour.
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67 Responses to Women on the Board – as proposed by Richard Branson

  1. ‘It still amazes me why so many men (and some women) are still against women’s promotion into senior management and appointment onto boards.’

    Michael, I don’t know of a single man or woman who’s ‘against’ women’s promotion onto boards etc., so long as women recognise they should get onto boards through merit rather than through special treatment (e.g. the threat of quotas, as we have in the UK at the moment). There’s no evidence to support the self-serving theory of a positive causal link between ‘improved’ gender diversity on boards and enhanced corporate performance. None. You’re one of hundreds of individuals (including David Cameron, Vince Cable, Theresa May, Lynne Featherstone) and dozen of organisations (including DBIS, EHRC, 30% club, IEDP, Professional Boards Forum…) which have failed to provide us with even a shred of evidence for such a link. In plain English:

    THERE IS NO BUSINESS CASE FOR ‘IMPROVING’ GENDER DIVERSITY ON BOARDS.

    We’ve now posted links to four studies showing that ‘improved’ gender diversity on boards leads to a decline in corporate performance (link below) so people would arguably be justiified in being ‘against’ women’s promotions onto boards. Our latest post on this was just three days ago:

    http://c4mb.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/a-fourth-study-shows-that-having-more-women-on-boards-leads-to-a-decline-in-corporate-performance/

    Soon after coming to power in May 2010 the Conservative-led coalition, to its eternal shame, commissioned a Labour Labour – Lord Davies – to provide recommendations on how best to ‘improve’ gender diversity in major corporate boardrooms. The Davies report (February 2011) was predictably left-wing in its analysis and recommendations. One of the report’s recommendations – later accepted by the government – was to threaten the introduction of legislated quotas for women on FTSE100 boards if they didn’t ‘voluntarily’ have 25% female representation by 2015. Ominously, according to the report, the 25% figure is ‘a major milestone in a longer journey’. This is nothing less than a left-wing ideological attack on the business sector.

    The predictable response of FTSE100 companies was to take the lowest risk ‘solution’ to the quotas problem by appointing women as non-executive directors. In 2010, before the report was published, only 13% of new FTSE100 board directors were women, presumably on the grounds of merit. In 2011 30% of new FTSE100 board directors were women, while the latest data (March – August 2012) show a figure of 55%. In 2012 all the new female director appointments were as non-executives, while all 18 new executive directors were men. How about that for a ‘gender gap’, one based on merit? We couldn’t ask for better evidence that women are being appointed to FTSE100 boards on grounds other than merit.

    The same ‘solution’ was damaging to Norwegian publicly-listed companies when quotas were introduced:

    http://www.iea.org.uk/blog/the-gender-diversity-delusion

    At the risk of repeating myself – there is not a scrap of evidence to support the theory of a causal link between ‘improved’ gender diversity on boards and enhanced corporate performance. By pursuing gender diversity initiatives women (and men for that matter) are making themselves look very silly.

    Have a nice day.

    Mike Buchanan
    CAMPAIGN FOR MERIT IN BUSINESS
    http://c4mb.wordpress.com

    • equalityedge says:

      What concerns me about the whole issue of merit is that it seems to be based on a male corporate model and certainly a testosterone lead view of senior management and board-life.

      I suggest that perhaps it is time to look at the way businesses have grown up over the years, decade and centuries. Within our current global experience, I would hardly say that our corporate world is being very successful, would you. Many women prefer flat, rather than hierarchical structures, involving cooperation and collaboration rather than competition.

      I do not pretend to have all the answers – I would not be so arrogant – but I do know there is an egalitarian approach that would enhance the upper levels of business.

      Can I suggest, though I am not an advocate of Lord Davies’ threatened quota system, that it would increase the social value of organisations to enable women to take their rightful place on merit. Men in senior management should take responsibility in this enabling process; where it has happened success has followed. This may be branded anecdotal evidence, but in time I feel sure that equality in the boardroom will improve our corporate world.

      I know this discussion will keep on running.

      Michael

      • Michael, why do you sneer at a ‘male corporate model’? I’ve yet to see a ‘female corporate model’ do anything like as well. The story of free enterprise has been one of men risking everything on new businesses, and possibly going bankrupt in the process, or possibly succeeding in establishng major businesses. If they go bankrupt, their partners leave them. If the business succeeds, women want special treatment to get onto the board. It’s the workplace equivalent of women seeking a wealthy partner.

        The track record of women establishing important new businesses has been truly lamentable. Only women (to the best of my knowledge) seek government grants for their new ventures. In other words, the taxpayer takes the risk, and they get the reward (if any).

        ‘Our current global expeirence’? It’s in the very DNA of capitalism that we’ll have booms and busts. Politicians (e.g. Gordon Brown) simply make it much worse by increasing the money supply for their short–term electoral advantage (house prices etc rise, people thought they were getting wealthier, so Labour won three terms from 1997). What’s the left-wing alternative? Busts and busts.

        Women might ‘prefer’ co-operation but capitalism is about competition. Maybe that’s why so few women cut it at the top levelsm of business (plus, let’s not forget Catherine Hakim’s Preference Theory which alone explains why men dominate boardroms).

        You do NOT ‘… know there is an egalitarian approach that would enhance the upper levels of business.’ That’s an opinion masquerading as a fact. And the fact is that you have no evidence to support the theory that more gender diversity leads to more successful companies, and we’ve put forward four studies which show the exact opposite. Isn’t it about time you put some evidence forward, or critiqued our evidence?

        Men in senior positions are regretfully enabling this madness. Chief among them are the numerous members of the 30% club, most notably Sir Roger Carr, chairman of Centrica, current president of the CBI. Although – ironically – HE doesn’t claim more women on boards leads to enhanced financial results. Apparently women ‘improve meeting dynamics’. Which must be nice for him.

        ‘Men in senior management should take responsibility in this enabling process; where it has happened success has followed. This may be branded anecdotal evidence, but in time I feel sure that equality in the boardroom will improve our corporate world.’

        It’s not even anecdotal evidence. What’s your evidence that ‘success has followed’? Or do we have opinions masquerading as facts, yet again? Our case is based on facts, while yours (and those of people with similar views) is based upon…anecdotes? Hmm…

        Mike Buchanan
        CAMPAIGN FOR MERIT IN BUSINESS
        http://c4mb.wordpress.com

    • Marta Garcia says:

      Mr Buchanan,
      The title of your campaign reads ´Campaign for merit in business´. Yet all of your comments, (the ones in your first posting and specially in the second posting below) refer to how women have it all cushy, work less hours, get promoted not based on merit, marry men for their wealth, have little entrepreneurial success and apply for grants to get their businesses started…..mmmm right…..what else can one say to this statements full of wisdom.?
      One could almost think you either have a very skewed view on women or very, very bad personal and professional experiences with females.

      Please give professional women a chance. They´ve gone to university, they´ve got on average better grades than men, they take on much greater household/childcare responsibility and some of them have the drive, the skill and the willingness to be board executives just to find that they are stopped at the door because there is an undeniable male orientated business culture.

      You can show me a thousand reports proving that gender mix does not improve the bottom line and I could show you another thousand proving the contrary. But what´s important is to show if having a gender mix hurts the performance or not. If it doesn´t, then IT´D BE ONLY FAIR TO HAVE THE SAME OPPORTUNITY to do brilliantly, f@•%k up or just do.

      One thing is clear to me, since quotas were introduced at Ivey League Universities in the US, thousands of student minorities have been able to graduate from a top university which otherwise would have been almost impossible. Also as a consequence, thousands of minority individuals have gone to be top caliber professionals in their fields. Some of them have made it to the boards.

      You may not like quotas but they are very much necessary, like forcing little kids to drink their medicine.
      And as another blogger rightly put it: ´Equality quotas will work if they support merit to become bias free one day. ´
      Until then, let´s support bringing fairness to the system.

      • Marta, thank you. I’ve addressed almost all the points you make in my books and in this blog (some of the points several times in this blog), so let me pick up on just one of your points:

        ‘You can show me a thousand reports proving that gender mix does not improve the bottom line and I could show you another thousand proving the contrary.’

        On this blog I’ve pointed to four studies clearly showing a causal link between ‘improving’ gender diversity on boards – whether through quotas, the threat of quotas, or otherwise – and declines in coroprate performance. You say you can show me a thousand reports. I’m sure you’re a busy woman, so I won’t challenge you to show me a thousand reports. Please show me just ONE report showing a positive CAUSAL link between ‘improved’ gender diversity on boards and enhanced corporate performance. That would be good. Nobody else has been able to. The reasons for that are perfectly obvious to Fred and myself, I’m sorry they escape the other contributors to this debate.

        Mike Bichanan
        CAMPAIGN FOR MERIT IN BUSINESS
        http://c4.wordpress.com

      • Marta Garcia says:

        Mr Buchanan,

        You ask me to send you a report that proves that gender mix improves business performance. That is a trap and you know it…..
        What we all should look to prove is whether gender mix hurts the bottom line, if it doesn´t then as a I said, we all should have the opportunity to get to the boardroom based on unbiassed merit and do brilliantly or f@%K up.
        You are leading a campagin for ´Merit in Business¨, yet all your efforts are put into not allowing the female quotas….where is exactly the relation between these two?

        If you want ´merit in business´ why don´t you set up an audit comittee that investigates nepotism, raqueteering, fraud etc, etc etc, You have bulkloads of all of these amongst your oh so loved ´Old boys club´ specially within the financial sector.

        Please stop your nonsense.

      • Marta, thank you. Let me take this slowly…

        ‘You ask me to send you a report that proves that gender mix improves business performance.’

        I asked for this because if gender mix doesn’t improve business performance, all we have is a self-seeking social engineering programme for women who wouldn;t get onto boards otherwise.

        ‘What we all should look to prove is whether gender mix hurts the bottom line, if it doesn´t then…’

        This is exactly my point. Dear God, how often do I have to say this? We have four studies on our blog clearly showing gender mix hurts the bottom line. They’re all cited on our blog, with direct links to the studies, Three of the four are downloadable at no cost. The Ken Ahern / Amy Dittmar study on the damaging impact of quotas on Norwegian companies is perhaps the most important.

        ‘As a I said, we all should have the opportunity to get to the boardroom based on unbiassed merit and do brilliantly or f@%K up.’

        You all DO have the opportunity. But equality of opportunity isn’t the same as equality of outcome, To believe the former will inevitably lead to the latter is an ideological position. The reasons why there are so few women in major corporate baordrooms are well understood and I outlined most of them in ‘The Glass Ceiling Delusion’.

        ‘You are leading a campagin for ´Merit in Business¨, yet all your efforts are put into not allowing the female quotas…’

        Quotas are intrinsically anti-meritocratic. How can they be otherwise?

        ‘Please stop your nonsense.’

        I’m presenting you with facts, and you’re presenting me with opinions masquerading as facts. Which of my facts do you regard as ‘nonsense’?

        I’ve just learnt from one of our supporters that Marjorie Scardino, CEO of Pearson plc, has just announced her resignation. Her replacement will be a man. Can you IMAGINE the effort and expense that Pearson must have gone to, to find a replacement female CEO? I’ll bet it was ENORMOUS. But then all 18 executive directors appointed by the FTSE100 this year have been men, all the female appointments have only been as non-execs. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

        Why, we must ask, does the number of men able (and willing) to perform at the top of major businesses continue to markedly outnumber the number of women who can do so? I refer again to Dr Catherine Hakim’s Preference Theory, first published when she was a Senior Research Fellow at LSE. Isn’t it about time we accepted her findings, that most men and women have markedly different attitudes to work/life balance? Only 14% of British women are work-centred in the way most men naturally are. I never knew a woman who, when she said she wanted a ‘better’ work/life balance, meant she wanted more work. And I don’t know a working woman who’d like to work longer hours. Most would work a fewer hours if their circumstances allowed it.

        Mike Buchanan
        CAMPAIGN FOR MERIT IN BUSINESS
        http://c4mb.wordpress.com

      • Marta Garcia says:

        Mr. Buchanan, you wrote: ´Which of my facts do you regard as ‘nonsense’?´.
        Your non-esense:
        1) That you want us all to believe that your reports are bullet proof undisputable representations of the truth on this subject. You have asked some bloggers not to insult your intelligence and as a matter of reciprocity it´d be nice to get the same treatment. Don´t ask me again to provide evidence or challenge your reports, I´m not qualified to do so and when other bloggers who are qualified posted references to evidence you dismissed it.
        2) That you can think that the success of large/listed company´s depends solely or in great measure on the boardroom make up. I should think the success of companies depend on their full workforce and greatly on the quality of their executive and middle management not their boardroom. Otherwise there would be an all-powerful, all mighty board room and a bunch of brainless minions underneath. Given that the UK women to men workforce ratio is 47%/53% we already know where the sucess comes from.
        3) That you are only looking for a causal link. You are very insisting on it, you want the results in black or white. See the thing with experimental research is that it´s not an exact science and depending which variables you utilize you get different results hence my hesitation to accept your studies as proof for your views.
        4) But most of all, that you implicitly and explicitly refer to women in this blog as sheep, unable, undeserving, unprepared, tax money suckers. This on its own discredits your position. May not be how you actually think or how you actually wanted to come across, of course.

        With this, my reply to your comments has run its course.

        Regards.

      • Fred says:

        Marta, You may be surprised to know that Mr Buchanan’s views are shared by many thousands of men and significant numbers of women who do not see his views as nonsense as you so dismissively put it.

      • Marta, in your earlier comment you said:

        ‘You can show me a thousand reports proving that gender mix does not improve the bottom line and I could show you another thousand proving the contrary.’

        By ‘the contrary’ you can only mean – if your understanding of English is the same as mine, anyway – reports which prove that gender mix DOES improves the bottom line. You could show me ‘a thousand’ such reports, apparently. I asked you to direct me to just one of these reports, and you say I’m setting a ‘trap’. Baffling. Truly baffling.

        Mike Buchanan

  2. Fred says:

    So long as women gain management positions on merit like men have to there is no problem. Giving women special treatment which discriminates against men along with all the hype and myths we have seen in the press is at serious variance to the four well researched university papers that conclude that women do not add the value implied which oddly enough are never mentioned.

    It is being suggested by protagonists of more women on boards that companies increase performance by having more women in senior management, but the evidence shows the exact opposite e.g that the company performance declines.

    It is vital in the current economic environment that only the best men or women get to senior management on merit and special treatment for either gender is not pushed into the mainstream. If the comments being made by proponents of more women on boards and in senior management were accurate there would be no males on any corporate boards because shareholders only look at the ROCE of their investments and would insist on women only boards but they don’t because they are not.

    Should this attempt at social engineering continue there will be less high performing corporates which will mean less corporation tax, less income tax paid to the treasury and unemployment will rise. This is a very high price to pay for a left wing social engineering exercise that treats women as infants and men as unimportant. Proponents use language like ” male , pale and stale” yet there are no female Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or James Dyson apart from anything this language is sexist, racist and wholly inaccurate.

    Equality of opportunity is a good thing however equality of outcome is dangerous and discriminates against better qualified and experienced men.

    • equalityedge says:

      I do not see that either Richard Branson, or many of the other protagonists (including myself) are suggesting a social engineering project. Board membership and senior management positions must be open and available to all. I wonder should applicants remove all evidence of the gender in the application process, whether more women would be placed in senior positions. My guess is they would and that seem to frighten and disturb many men in those positions.

      DO you suggest that the men on boards now are all there on merit – I don’t think so!

      Can I recommend that you take a look at Ruby McGregor-Smith. Not only is she the CEO of a FTSE 250 company, she has increased its its revenue and profit, tripling its workforce to 62,000 people. Much of the success has been achieved through doing things differently – perhaps as a woman.

      • Michael, If all references to gender were removed from applications FEWER women would get to senior positions. Men don’t preference for men, but do preference women (I refer again to the 30% club FTSE100 chairmen, busiily handing out NED posts to poorly qualified women). I strongly recommend Steve Moxon’s ‘The Woman Racket’ for the evidence base on gender preferences – women were called in for interviews far more often (fourfold) than men, given equivalent experiemce and expertise on their CVs. And women display very strong same-gender prerefence (numerous examples of this on our blog – some women on record boasting of positively discriminating for women at the expense of men).

        Michael, I can scarcely believe you’re saying ‘Here’s a female FTSE250 CEO, she’s…’. How would this line of argument go? Let me play this game for a moment. What about the disastrous female CEO at Trinity MIrror? A major bank’s head of fraud, recently convicted of, er, fraud? If you persist in taking examples of poor male CEOs and comparing them with successful female CEOs, you’ll get a skewed result. Why would you want to do that, if not to suport your ideology and professional interests?

        Mike Buchanan

    • Marta Garcia says:

      Fred,
      I have no doubt that there are men and women that would share Mr. Buchanan´s thoughts, there are also thousands of people that believe in psychic readings…and 500 years ago most people believed that the sun rotated around the earth. Some people paid with their lives defending alternative ideas.
      My comment to Mr. Buchanan ´to stop the non-sense´ was not dismissive but imperative.

      • Marta, a few thoughts on your response to Fred:

        – 100% of the people I’ve ever known who believe in astrology, psychic readings, crystal healing, and similar mumbo-jumbo have been women. Granted, some men exploit these women by pretending to believe in such guff themselves, but there are far more women who explout them.

        – your point about people thinking the sun went round the earth is an interesting one. But it was an opinion eventually defeated by the power of evidence. You have opinions about the benefits of gender mix but no evidence to back them up. We have evidence to back up our positions.

        MB

      • Marta Garcia says:

        Blimey!, I thought the largest congregation of believers in miracle making, mind reading and hand healing were ….the Christian Church, anecdotally mostly an all men hierarchical organization.
        And by the way, you are saying that 100% of people who believe in such things are women….Do you have one of those made-to-measure reports to prove that only or mostly women believe on it? If not, it is just your perception masquerading as facts 🙂

      • ‘Blimey!, I thought the largest congregation of believers in miracle making, mind reading and hand healing were ….the Christian Church, anecdotally mostly an all men hierarchical organization.’

        I’m a lifelong atheist but it seems obvious to me that religions play an important role in teaching morals. Some of them are huge organisations so OBVIOUSLY men are going to take most of the top positions (e.g. that old guy in Rome). Yet most of the worshippers (in Christian churches at least) are women. Crazy, eh? I was referring to beliefs in phenomena unrelated to moral guidance – utter mumbo-jumbo such as astrology, crystal healing, psychic readings blah blah blah,,,

        ‘And by the way, you are saying that 100% of people who believe in such things are women….Do you have one of those made-to-measure reports to prove that only or mostly women believe on it? If not, it is just your perception masquerading as facts :-)’

        Oh dear, here we go again. What I actually said was…

        ‘100% of the people I’ve ever known who believe in astrology, psychic readings, crystal healing, and similar mumbo-jumbo have been women.’

        Did you miss the qualifier ‘I’ve ever known’?

        Mike Buchanan

  3. Michael, an excerpt below from a testimonial for ‘The Glass Ceiling Delusion’ written by an eminent academic and bestselling author of business books (below). How do you equate this with the assertion that women bring something different, distinctive and valuable to the boardroom? Or does corporate performance decline when more women are appointed to boards, precisely BECAUSE far fewer women than men possess the required characteristics at the top level? Which may explain why only quotas, or the threat of them, ‘persuades’ companies to take a course of action which can only damage them? If I were a woman, I should be deeply embarrassed that such initiatives were being conducted on my behalf.

    The testimonial excerpt:

    Every doctoral study I have read about women in management in the past fifteen years proves that successful women have EXACTLY the same characteristics as successful men. I have always admired successful women as much as successful men and have had the privilege of working for and with many of them.
    Malcolm McDonald Emeritus Professor, Cranfield School of Management

  4. Fred says:

    You are right Michael this debate has some way to go. Proponents of appointing more women on boards not based on merit have a tendency to cherry pick examples of a tiny minority of successful female CEO’s masquerading as evidence of superiority. They also express views that are merely opinions however the evidence and arguments against are based on facts from well researched recent university papers which you never mention…..why? Overwhelmingly the corporate world is doing a remarkably good job given the economic conditions that prevail so why are you denigrating it? There have been a tiny percentage of failures, some of whom were run by women, however the majority are doing well. How do you know that men are not there on merit….that is an assumption!

  5. Mike and Fred. I read your responses to this article and I thought I would look at what else was going on in the world in 1957 – the date of the film that Richard Branson refers to. Apparently, on 14 July that year – Rawya Ateya took her seat in the National Assembly of Egypt, thereby becoming the first female parliamentarian in the Arab world. I then thought I’d see what had changed in that world since then. There were elections in Egypt earlier this year (2012). Of the 508 seats elected to in those elections – 8 women were elected – around 2% of the total seats.

    Sometimes Mike and Fred you just know things aren’t right! 55 years to go from one elected woman to eight? Tear up your reports and throw away your facts and figures guys. Look around you. Despite all of our (collective) efforts, we have still not yet created a political or business world which is fair, open and meritocratic. Let’s face up to it, get over it and get on with trying to make this happen. Women, ethnic minorities, disabled people and the lesbian, gay and bisexual community are all still under represented in the upper echelons of our political and business systems in the UK. Let’s find ways of redressing this balance and helping to create an equal playing field rather than hanging on to the past.

    • equalityedge says:

      Paul

      Thank you so much for your reinforcing comments. There is still so much to do, but there does seem to be a current momentum to move this issue along.

      Michael

    • Paul, thank you, but EGYPT? Let’s confine ourselves to the UK, shall we?
      I entered the business world in 1979 as a graduate trainee – 33 years ago. There were already numerous women in senior positions – well, in functions that were well paid, in pleasant surroundings etc. The idea that women might have been discrimninated against was as ridiculous then as it is now. In 30 years in the business world the only discrimination I saw towards women was positive. Indeed, all too often they were promoted above their abolities, or simply walked when the pressure became too much for them (being women, they were more likely than men to have a partner who could finance this choice).
      Did you attend my IEA lecture? If so, you’ll have some understanding of Catherine Hakim’s Preference Theory. THAT explains why there are so few women in senior positions. even in f/t work men work harder than women, working on average 39 hours pw, women 32 hrs (ONS March – June 2012).

      Mike Buchanan

  6. The practice of merit in Britain has always been biased across gender, class, ethnic lines as well as other diversity strands. It is silly to suggest that quotas contradict the idea of merit. Instead quotas can help to eliminate historical biases in practice of merit. Undersophisicated and self-serving statements do not help us.

    We have recently concluded a study exploring the links between talent shortages and gender inequality. Our study shows that tradition and self interest blinds us to seeing how gender inequalities continue to shape the way we make ‘talent’ criteria and promote male domination and support subordination of women at work. Equality quotas will work if they support merit to become bias free one day. However today we cannot trust merit as it is defined for men by men!

    • equalityedge says:

      Hi Mustafa

      Thanks so much for this prompt and thought provoking reply. Have the findings of your study been published. On several occasions I have heard those with descenting voices ask to see any counter evidence, though most they seem to dismiss.

      Best

      Michael

      • Yes, all of my work is published and can be accessed through http://www.ozbilgin.net

        We also have a paper which is recently accepted to Human Relations, which explains why legal regulation is necessary in the face of neo-liberal impasse on equality. I can send copies of that to interested parties also.

        For further evidence everyone should look at their boardrooms and see how networks and nepotism play a role in recruitment decisions. Situation is made worse with the involvement of head hunters who are work shy and do not use bias free recruitment techniques. It is naive to ask for evidence when the level of incompetence in British boards is staggeringly high. Look at any board and you can see incompetence. Surprising is the fact that only white men are allowed to be incompetent when minority ethnic people, women, and others who don’t fit the bill have to be over-qualified to make it. We need diversity of incompetence!!!!

  7. This is a worrying debate on many levels and we all know that facts and statistics can be manipulated to show whatever you may wish them to, especially if you have commissioned the report(s).

    If only I could believe that every person on a Board, and NEDs too, are selected (or elected as in professional practices) on merit and suitability for the role I would be happy to say that there is clearly no problem here, and neither Government nor groups such as the 30% club need worry. However, how can you prove that this is the case – or not? What are your personal experiences – rather than stats?

    Right from the start of my career (my parents believed that as a girl I would paint, do the flowers, get married and have children but surely nothing else!) I have found myself surrounded by men who, after some questioning I realised were no more capable than myself and quite a few, less so. However, their conditioning and education has led them to be assume they have a ‘right’ to be at the Leadership table, whereas I felt honoured to have been ‘invited’ to join. This is a subtle distinction and I fully accept that I started out as a shrinking violet: I have learnt along the way.

    For a long time I have wished that sheer ability will out and gender is simply not an issue. In fact I still do believe that, and that there are ‘alpha’ females as much as males and there are certainly men who display the alleged attributes of women. You simply cannot lump all men into one basket and all women into another: if only it were that simple. We need to ensure that throughout childhood, teenage years and on into whatever academic or working experience individuals go through, they are conditioned and developed to achieve, genuinely, and suitably rewarded – and it is neither men nor women who have a ‘right’ to success.

    We do have to learn from other societies – and in Asia women are as successful as men and very well respected. They also believe you are not a ‘has been’ at 55 as we do in the City of London – or is that a natural and suitable culling process?

    • equalityedge says:

      Hi Patricia, thanks for your reply. The comments are well received.

      Your parents’ aspirations/expectation that you describe are still compatible with many parents today and unfortunately with the views of people across our workplace society (women, I’m afraid, as well as men). These experiences need to be counter-acted in the workplace, by everyone encouraging all to perform to their maximum ability; whilst also recognising where people have come from. Those from BMER, LGBT, disabled and socially deprived backgrounds might need a helping hand – perhaps by fast-tracking or even the dreaded quota system. Our male dominated workplaces have to recognise that women can and do fall into a similar category and may need some of the constructed assistance. I wonder if this is this the social engineering that descenting voices describe?

      I agree that in the long run, ability will come through and quality rise to the top – whether male or female. It is the short and medium term that concerns me today.

      Regards

      Michael

      • There are too many incompetent men at the top of the organisations. If quotas don’t work, simply removing incompetence can free up some space for diversity of talent. If I did not know boardroom incompetence, I would buy the argument that recruitment there is based on merit. I find the argument predictable as the resistance to equality quotas ensures the status quo which keeps untalented but connected men in positions of power.

    • Patricia, many thanks. I touched on my personal experience in an earlier post today so I’ll pick up on a few of your points.

      ‘This is a worrying debate on many levels and we all know that facts and statistics can be manipulated to show whatever you may wish them to, especially if you have commissioned the report(s).’

      Firstly, why is debate ‘worrying’? Debate is healthy and in short supply in this aea.

      I can only think you haven’t seen the reports, or read their Abstracts. All four of the reports we’re citing are on our blog http://c4mb.wordpress.com. Nobody has suggested any osf these reports and statistics have been manipulated. The only manipulation I’m aware of in this area is when people present correlation as causation – and it’s proponents of ‘improved’ gender diversity who’ve been doing that for many years.

      ‘You simply cannot lump all men into one basket and all women into another: if only it were that simple.’

      We’re NOT doing this. It’s poponents of ‘improved’ gender diversity who spin the debate in this way so as to infer women are disadvantaged. What we’re saying is that board-level gender balance is simply a logical outcome of differences in the genders’ work ethics, work rate, focus and area of specialisation.

      Mike Buchanan

  8. schnozzles says:

    Watch this: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01mnwcb

    See the research, look at the way women who rise to the top are perceived. This is something I’ve come across time and time again in my career (in IT) – by no means all, but definitely a large number of men perceive women who are decisive, authoritative and driven as aggressive, over-ambitious, pushy. I have been actively sabotaged and had men with less experience promoted over my head, while at the same time my boss is telling me I’m doing a wonderful job.

    In Hilary Devey’s programme, they carry out an experiment. They form three groups of people – one with all women, one with all men and one with an even mix. The even mix performs better, and in all my experience of high powered meetings (sub-board level), this is something I have also experienced. Mixed teams get better results.

    “What we’re saying is that board-level gender balance is simply a logical outcome of differences in the genders’ work ethics, work rate, focus and area of specialisation.”

    What I’m saying is that the whole process, the old boys’ network, implicitly pushes us out of the system. Men are making assumptions about what women want to do. Yes, for those women who have kids, it can be hard to put in the hours – but I know men who are actively avoiding promotion precisely because they want to spend time with their kids. More flexibility would work for them, too.

    Statistics show that a large number of women who drop out of the rat race are becoming entrepreneurs, starting their own successful businesses. Now if that’s true, why are we losing those women from the corporate ladder? Why are we letting them go? Those companies who are listening to their women and promoting them actually seem to be doing rather well.

    In these days of fibre optic broadband and video conferencing, the corporate culture should be geared towards harnessing technology to allow it to keep and promote the best employees, regardless of age or gender. And although I think it would be nice to believe that we don’t need a helping hand from the government, I suspect that a quota law is the only way forward.

    • equalityedge says:

      Thanks for the taking the time to reply. This is clearly a subject that stimulates polarities of opinion. All descenting voices, of which there are too many, need to hear as much “evidence”, anecdotal, empirical and research backed as possible.

      I watched the Hilary Davey documentary yesterday. Thanks for the link – I cannot believe I missed it first time round.

      • Thank you to the person who alluded to the Hilary Devey programme, ‘Women at the Top’. Now I’m an admirer of the women, but she was hijacked by the (as always) left-wing BBC. The only people she met were proponents of ‘improved’ gender diversity, some of them favouring quotas. Dear God, she even asked Ceri Goddard, the chief executive of the Fawcett Society, for her views on the subject!!! You couldn’t make it up. BBC researchers really manipulated her.

        We’d already publicly challenged most of the people she met to provide evidence of the ‘missing link’. None could. We then asked the people on the programme we hadn’t encountered before – including the American woman – and none of them could either.

        Mike Buchanan

  9. mark Sykes says:

    Mike, Patricia did not say debate was worrying, – she said THIS debate is worrying – that is a significantly different thing.
    My worries on this debate are that we are STILL having the debate, and what appears to be happening is that a number of white males (I’m just guessing that is your status) who have never experienced discrimination,(a very tiny minority might have, but historically we have been the dominant force in society for thousands of years) can be so blind to the potential of utilising the whole workforce. As a white male I can see that by denying a large proportion of society the opportunity to progress we are missing a chance to develop better business practices,and more successful businesses – we won’t know the answer as long as the business world is dominated by white males.

    • ‘My worries on this debate are that we are STILL having the debate…’

      Mark, thanks for your comment. ‘STILL’? I can find no evidence that there’s ever been a debate. Left-wing politicians (e.g. Harriet Harman 1997-2010, Comrade Cable currently) conspire with ideologically motivated civil servants, left-wing academics and gullible men (e.g. the FTSE100 chairman in the 30% club), the CBI and others to push forward their agenda WITHOUT debate. They won’t even look at the evidence that suggests they’re going in the wrong direction (e.g. the Ahern/Dittmar study on Norwegian companies).

      Seriously, if you can show me any evidence of any debate before we launched 5 months ago, I should be most grateful. I can find no evidence of such a debate ever having taken place before. Thank you.

      Mike Buchanan
      CAMPAIGN FOR MERIT IN BUSINESS
      http://c4mb.wordpress.com

      • It is not true that we are lacking evidence in support of quotas. In fact, the conservative, right-wing, patriarchal and white elite are simply not reading the evidence that is out there. Quotas and merit are well studied. However, if one does not read, one does not see evidence. I can send a reading list if anyone is interested. However, I feel that the discussion is more ideological than realist.

      • Mustafa, I wrote a lengthy response but then had a signal breakdown. Let me give you the gist. I should be VERY interested to have a list of studies showing a positive CAUSAL link between ‘improved’ gender diversity on boards and enhanced corporate performance. I remind you we’ve posted links to four studies showing a negative causal link. Please don’t insult my intelligence – or that of other visitors to this site – by putting forward studies which don’t show a CAUSAL link, e.g. studies which show correlation. There are far better explanations for correlation than a ‘female / diversity effect’. Correlation is not causation, and all that. Thank you.

        Mike Buchanan

      • Dear Mike Buchanan

        In social science, there is no methodology which can truly show causation. The level of this discussion is pedestrian. There is a difference between diversity, and effective management of diversity. The former leads to mixed outcomes, with both negative and positive reports. Read Roberson’s authoritative works which summarise variable effects. However, you are conflating the studies on diversity and performance with studies on diversity management and performance. Effective management of diversity generates positive outcomes. You are selectively ignoring the benefits that organisations which manage diversity accrue by consistently providing disinformation and partial reporting on diversity and performance links. What you are reporting is correct but partial, misleading and not mindful. Instead, I would advise you to read up on studies focusing on the outcomes of effective diversity management.

        Your argument if put in an other context, e.g. money rather than diversity is sounds like this: Money is bad because money can lead to ethical corruption. This is nonsensical. As we are not discussing here that money is bad or good in essence. We are discussing how best to manage money so that we can accrue profits. You are some 10 lessons behind a whole module on diversity management. We cover the ground of the issue of mixed outcomes of diversity in the first lecture. It is neither original nor interesting. If you want to read up on cutting edge research, check the studies that EU, the UK government, ESRC, CIPD, DTI, SHRM, CBI among others have commissioned. Partial presentation of research findings turns this discussion forum into a point scoring game. I don’t think that neither of us have the time.

        Have a wonderful week!

        Mustafa

      • Mustafa, it embarrases me to respond to your last comment, but here goes:

        ‘In social science, there is no methodology which can truly show causation.’

        WRONG. Longitudinal studies with panel data (e.g. Ahern/Dittmar) have long been recognised by professional sociologists to show causation. So, the $64,000 question – can you point me to even ONE such study to back up your assertions?

        ‘If you want to read up on cutting edge research, check the studies that EU, the UK government, ESRC, CIPD, DTI, SHRM, CBI among others have commissioned.’

        We’ve publicly challenged ALL of these organisations except SHRM – I don’t know who they are – and not one has been able to provide a shred of evidence of a positive causal link. The DTI is now DBIS, of course.

        ‘You are some 10 lessons behind a whole module on diversity management. We cover the ground of the issue of mixed outcomes of diversity in the first lecture.’

        Shaming tactics – well done! I’ve been waiting for them, they ALWAYS appear when people don’t have rational arguments to offer. You’ve taken longer than most. You’re building castles in the air. Don’t be too surprised when people stop buying them. I hope you have a productive line of work to move onto.

        Mike Buchanan

      • Dear Mike, if I may,

        I am not selling anything. If that appeared to be the case, I am sorry. The fact that those authors suggest that longitudinal research with panel data shows causation is only their problem. Longitudinal data is insufficient evidence to show causation. You claim that you dismissed evidence from these organisations. I have not seen any evidence which you suggest exists that dismisses the evidence. You keep on reiterating points, and trying to score some. However, it is futile as I am not seeking sensation. I would, however, be happy to read robust research evidence. I have conducted studies for the CIPD. Kirton, Healy, Greene have conducted studies for the EU and ESRC. Their findings are out there. You seem to be dismissing them without a real insight. You are a politician and not a social scientist. As a result, our discussion is not meaningful. You wish to draw me into a party political debate, when I am not interested in that.

        On another point of clarification. CBI is used deliberately. As their report on diversity predates the name change. I have conducted two national studies for the then EOC on gender pay gap and private sector recruitment agencies. Results are published. Surprisingly, we had similar responses from both left, liberal and right leaning readers.

        Anyhow, really we are not even having a debate!

        Best wishes

        Mustafa

      • Mustafa, thank you. To take a number of your latest points:

        ‘I am not selling anything. If that appeared to be the case, I am sorry.’

        On your latest comment you say ‘I have conducted two national studies…’ So you’re professionally engaged with this stuff, i.e. you have a vested interest? I’m not. I spend my own money to disseminate the truth, earn nothing from it, and never will.

        ‘You claim that you dismissed evidence from these organisations.’

        No, I don’t. Please read what I’ve written. I’ve asked them for evidence of a positive causal link, and none has been provided. Not by them, not by you.

        ‘I would, however, be happy to read robust research evidence.’

        Links to four such studies are on my blog. If you’re pushed for time email me on mikebuchanan@hotmail.co.uk and I’ll send you the URLs.

        ‘You are a politician and not a social scientist.’
        What on earth makes you think I’m a politician? I’m not.

        ‘You wish to draw me into a party political debate…’
        No, I don’t. The only UK political party which has spoken any sense in this area is UKIP, and I’m not a member of UKIP.

        ‘CBI is used deliberately. As their report on diversity predates the name change.’

        Er, which report, and which name change?

        The CBI was hijacked years ago by the pro-gender diversity brigade, and refuses to review the evidence that shows them to be wrong. Not surprising given that Sir Roger Carr, chairman of Centrica, is both President of the CBI and a member of the 30% club. He doesn’t himself claim more women on boards lead to improved financial results. Which is ironic, ironic, wouldn’t you say?

        Enough long exchanges, you’re right, we’re both too busy. So can you please direct me to studies showing positive causal links, or have the integrity to admit that no such studies exist? Thank you.

        Mike Buchanan
        CAMPAIGN FOR MERIT IN BUSINESS
        http://c4mb.wordpress.com

  10. Samantha Fey says:

    Wow That article really got all you Guys scared.
    Women are slowly coming into boardrooms biased on merit and performance in the workplace. As this recession culls off the old boardroom dinosaurs and forces companies to change. Far too much discrimination on gender/sexuality and still even ethnicity exists today. Including a diverse range of people in any boardroom is always going to give your company an advantage. Providing they are the right people for the jobs they hold.

    Samantha Fey
    (A Transgender, Managing Director or a UK Company)

  11. This is undoubtedly a complex debate and one that has not run its course. My view is that talk of quotas does not help as it only adds fuel to the thought that white men are being actively discriminated against and this creates friction in itself. As an aside, working as a researcher in recruitment, if I were speaking to a potential white male candidate for a senior role I’d frequently hear comments such as, “I’ve got no chance. They’re only looking for a black lesbian cripple”. For starters, how insulting and secondly, many of those roles did in fact go to white men. However, with the level of educational attainment for women now matching if not exceeding that of men, we have to ask ourselves as a society why are women not doing better in terms of senior roles in business and the professions? I don’t believe that there are a lack of women who could stand their ground on the basis of merit. Someone, a white man, as it happens, who knows far more about this kind of thing than me, suggested to me that we have to look at the whole culture of the boardroom, that the women who did well often adopted “male behaviours” and that often the strain of doing do led many to walk. I often wish I’d had a chance to talk further to him about this theory.

    • equalityedge says:

      Heidi

      Too often women believe that they have to behave in “male” way to be included at the upper table. This is because that table generally reflects male behaviours, mannerisms and methodology. Surely this is the time to explore what a female model would look like.

      Michael

  12. Sara Lodge says:

    I would like to say that I cannot believe that in 2012 we are actually still questioning the efficacy of women as leaders or in business but sadly I can. Women are still expected to ‘prove’ that they can add more to a board than men rather than it just being accepted that they have equal right to be there when there are so many examples of catastrophically poor male board performers that are disregarded – you only have to look at Sir David Walker’s report into the financial crash (2009) to see the utter failure of almost exclusively male leadership at the top of our biggest financial institutions for evidence of this. As an OD consultant I can tell you that many organisations are sucessful despite not because of their leadership – having men at the top does not mean that they would not perform better/differently with more women.
    I have worked in mainly male-dominated professions – engineering, management consultancy, the police – where the old adage that men make mistakes because they’re human, women make mistakes because they’re women is institutionalised and means the goalposts are simply not in the same place for women. I just despair – how can organisations respond flexibly and innovate when so many at senior management levels are living in the last century?

  13. schnozzles says:

    Totally agree with the last few comments – the whole culture has to change. Women should be proud to be women and bring that energy to the boardroom, rather than trying to adopt the historically and stereotypically Western white male way of doing things. If we work together and focus on personality, experience and merit rather than gender, sexuality, colour, creed or ability (in the sense of ability/disability), maybe we can do that. Things are already changing, gradually, but it would be good to see more senior management opening up the boardrooms.

    • I haven’t replied to the last few comments because they’re mostly opinons masqueradng as facts, submitted by people with a vested interest in sustaining the myth of ‘improved’ gender diversity leading to enhanced corporate performance. And now ‘schnozzles’ informs us that – tara! – ‘the whole culture has to change’. Why does it? And why will NONE of you challenge the evidence in my early comments on this post, four robust studies showing conclusively that ‘improving’ gender diversity on boards leads to a decline in corporate performance, including in Norway, supposedly a ‘success’ for legislated quotas? Even Helena Morrissey, founder of the 30% club, can provide not a shred of evidence of a positive causal link, and as I’ve just posted, nor can EHRC. DBIS failed too, we have another post on that.

      http://c4mb.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/our-freedom-of-information-act-request-to-the-equality-and-human-rights-commission-ehrc/

      This is all one big gravy train, and it’s carryting a dangerous number of passengers, more with every passing year. We’re doing all we can to derail the train in the interests of meritocracy. So if you have any evidence that our thesis is flawed, please let us know why, employing facts rather than opinions. Thank you.

      Mike Buchanan
      Author of ‘The Glass Ceiling Delusion: the real reasons more women don’t reach senior positions’

      CAMPAIGN FOR MERIT IN BUSINESS
      http://c4mb.wordpress.com

      • equalityedge says:

        Mike

        I think it is important that your views are aired and that people have the right to comment and respond as they see fit. I do not see this as a “gravy train” – far from it – this is an essential discussion. You seem to want to discredit any view or research that does not support your premise and perhaps in some of your counter arguments you lose sight of what people are saying.

        People’s experience, their research and statistical data show that diverse boards produce results. This is a challenge to white, male dominated environments, but is the way forward. The strength of opinion against your view is not delivered from a left-wing propagandist position, it is founded in an egalitarian belief that recognises the value of people of difference, as much as anything else, for their difference.

        Diversity in the boardroom will, by definition, expand the view of boards and remove from them the blinkers that see business from a male and testosterone led perspective.

      • Michael, thank you.

        ‘You seem to want to discredit any view or research that does not support your premise…’.

        At the risk of repeating myself, neither you nor any of your contributors have offered any research studies showing a positive causal link. I have had nothing to discredit. How many times do I have to say this?

        Mike Buchanan

    • Thank you everyone for engaging in this healthy exchange of views and Michael for starting it.

      When you are comfortable and cosy in your position and the world around you supports your way of thinking of course you would not question it, so I understand why some of the views appear incredulous.

      The issue is that many capable, intelligent women are not being nurtured into or considered for board roles. You may argue that there is no business case, although I have read some e.g credit Suisse report, but in my view ‘what success looks like for a business’ should be under review, because the current standards for success are actually not delivering. We must surely all agree with that?

      Like many aspects of change most do not engage willingly, but later reflect and recognise that the change was useful and necessary. I had an interview with a Swedish journalist yesterday, that fact is that quotas in Sweden have made change happen!

      Yes different culture etc., but talk is cheap, if we ‘do’, then we can really have a fact based argument about whether women on boards improves performance (although we may chose to measure the impact in another way) and not after a few months but a couple of years.

      I would not want an all black female board, in my image, not because I feel that a board of black women wouldn’t be entirely competent, but because I would feel that I was missing out on the diversity of experience, knowledge and skills of a wider group. I think this because I value and recognise that diversity brings creativity, challenge and new perspectives.

      To recognise women on boards not as a threat but an enhancement is the challenge perhaps?

      • ‘Rockingyourrole’, thank you for your comment. In response:

        ‘The issue is that many capable, intelligent women are not being nurtured into or considered for board roles.’

        Why do women have to be ‘nurtured into…’? Men don’t. You’re just seeking special treatment on grounds of gender, i.e. sexism.

        ‘You may argue that there is no business case, although I have read some e.g credit Suisse report…’

        We have read this report and it is being misrepresented by proponents of ‘improved gender diversity’. We have a blog post about it:

        http://c4mb.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/credit-suisse-research-institute-report-gender-diversity-and-corporate-performance/

        A small excerpt (p.17):

        ‘There is a significant body of research that supports the idea that there is no causation between greater gender diversity and improved profitability and stock price performance.’

        Finally, you say:

        ‘To recognise women on boards not as a threat but an enhancement is the challenge perhaps?’

        It IS a challenge to recognise women on boards as an enhancement because four studies show a ngative caiusal relationship with corporate performance, while NONE show a positive causal relationship. It’s as simple as that.

        Mike Buchanan
        CAMPAIGN FOR MERIT IN BUSINESS
        http://c4mb.wordpress.com

      • equalityedge says:

        Mike

        I am sure that you realise that our society, throughout history, has been dominated my men. There have been fewer female historical characters and therefore fewer role models. Indeed, one of our greatest novelist even needed to changer her name to George to get published. It is not known how many of Robert Schumann’s great works were actually composed by his wife Clara.

        You describe special treatment as sexism – it is not. The consideration given to women is an attempt to redress the balance of the past’s societal prejudice, suggesting that, as Patricia said earlier, our daughters should be brought up to sew and paint and be dutiful wives and mothers. I certainly want more than that for my daughter.

        Women can achieve top table appointments on merit, but a little assistance should also be afforded. Whereas I have not previously been an advocate of the quota system, I am beginning to think to might be a beneficial process for a short period. Then we will get the women as business role model we need.

      • MIchael, you write:

        ‘Whereas I have not previously been an advocate of the quota system, I am beginning to think to might be a beneficial process for a short period.’

        So, the evidence is that pushing more women onto boards (whether through quotas or otherwise) leads to a decline in corporate performance, and, er, you still want quotas? This is a straightforward left-wing ideological position.

        The role models argument is a very tired one, and begs an obvious question – who will be the role models’ role models? It’s been 33 YEARS since Margaret Thatcher became prime minister. Any woman in 2012 who still needs role models to motivate her isn’t an independently-minded person, she’s a SHEEP. Do we really want sheep in our boardrooms? Well, that would be diversity, and diversity leads to improved performance, apparently. And why restrict ourselves to mammals? Let’s throw in a couple of penguins while we’re at it. Female ones, obviously, because they’ll have a more consensual management style, and then profits will go up by 62%. Yippee!!!

        I leave you with the words of Marjorie Scardino, CEO of Pearson plc:

        ‘I’ve often been asked about the barriers women face in trying to reach the boardroom. The only barriers are in women’s minds.’

        Mike Buichanan
        CAMPAIGN FOR MERIT IN BUSINESS
        http://c4mb.wordpress.com

  14. equalityedge says:

    The message is coming across loud and clear. Most of the diverse contributors to this debate, with a wide range of experiences and values, seem to agree that senior management and boards would be more productive places with women and other diverse people well represented.

    I hope that those of you who think to the contrary, will listen to some of these voices and be prepared to address afresh your views. Certainly we have the opportunity here for a very lively debate and I am up for organising something. Please contact if you want more details.

    Thanks to everyone for your contributions. By the way similar discussions are taking in place in some of the LinkedIn groups where I posted the article.

    • Michael, when I read your latest comment I honestly thought you were joking. OF COURSE most of the contributors agree that blah, blah, blah. In the event of ‘improved’ diversity they either stand to gain personally, or their ‘group’ will, or people like you will.The only thing that will suffer will be companies, and the men who will be passed over for promotion in facoutr of less able women. Because that’s the inevitable result of quotas, or the threat of them. How are women not embarrassed by this reality? By pretending to themselves that all these women suddenly appoinrted to FTSE100 boards got there on merit, I imagine.

      Over March – August 2012, under the threat oif quotas, 55% of FTSE100 new director appointments were women (up from 13% in 2010 and 30% in 2011). ALL the 2012 intake of women have been non-execs, while ALL 18 new executive directors have been men. That’s what I call a ‘gender gap’, one reflecting relative MERIT.

      ‘I hope that those of you who think to the contrary, will listen to some of these voices and be prepared to address afresh your views.’

      Michael, doesn’t this go both ways? I have seen not a shred of evidence of the supporters of ‘improved’ gender diversity being prepared to ‘address afresh’ their views. Those who have replied to my comments about the evidence base for our position either ignore that evidence, or attack it in a scientifically illiterate manner (no names…).

      Let me know if you’d like some balance in any event you organise, I’ll be happy to come along. Maybe I could present my 25 minute IEA lecture? Or will your event be a case of ‘preaching to the converted’ as usual?

      Mike Buchanan
      CAMPAIGN FOR MERIT IN BUSINESS
      http://c4mb.wordpress.com

      • Chris Markiewicz says:

        Cat among pigeons time – whilst all this debate rages, what about the children? Male & female parents vying for top positions, doing their stuff in the boardroom and their children brought up by surrogates?

        Branson says women in the boardroom are good for business. I agree . But at what cost? What cost to broader society as youngsters have little or no parental attention/input?

        For as long as being a mother is considered somehow “inferior” to a career, our young are in danger of becoming disenfanchised. None of this applies, of course to men or women who are not parents.

        Sure Michael, I understand how you may want more for your daughter but lets not under estimate the importance of parenting to society & indeed to business.

        Chris Markiewicz

      • Chris, thanks for your insightful contribution. A couple of thoughts:

        1. The robust clear evidence is that when more women are appointed to boards, corporate performance doesn;t improve, it declines. Evidence in my previous comments on this blog, and on our own blog http://c4mb.wordpress.com.

        2. ‘For as long as being a mother is considered somehow “inferior” to a career, our young are in danger of becoming disenfanchised.’

        I agree 100%, but who says that being a mother is ‘inferior’? I’ve never heard any man express a sentiment of this sort, I certainly don’t hold this view, and few women would. It’s only a small band of angry misandrous militant feminists who say that motherhood is inferior to paid employment, because they want to shame women out of the home and destroy the nuclear family, as Swayne O’Pie explains in forensic detail in ‘Why Britain Hates Men: Exposing Femnism’. I may even discuss the matter at length myself in ‘Feminism: the ugly truth’…

        Mike Buchanan
        ANTI-FEMINISM LEAGUE
        http://fightingfeminism.wordpress.com

      • Marta Garcia says:

        Chris, you brought an interesting subject: ¨whilst all this debate rages, what about the children? Male & female parents vying for top positions, doing their stuff in the boardroom and their children brought up by surrogates?¨.

        While the subject of children’s education continues to be a challenge for society, – where usually both parents are at work, – we cannot forget that this task should be a joint one. I believe that this issue is separate from the discussion on whether having a more leveled gender mix at the boardroom is good, neutral or bad for business.

        In my view, society is crying for and moving towards a more flexible approach to work, where both parents are entitled to take time off, flexible hours or telecommuting. This should not be a choice meant for women only but truly for anyone. The government should encourage and incentivize businesses that allow flexible work arrangements. What is good for society at the end is good for business.

        Now, you´ll find that the same people that are against putting temporary quotas to get rid of biased discrimination at the boardroom, are also against flexible work, joint paternity leave and in general any change that could in the slightest challenge or endanger the position of the privately educated old boys club.

    • Michael, to all those who are unaware that an ideology lies behind ‘improving’ gender diversity in boardrooms, I offer the following short article.

      http://www.thecommentator.com/article/1503/socialism_s_trojan_horse_improved_gender_diversity_in_the_boardroom

      Mike Buchanan

  15. Fred says:

    Michael, Mr Buchanan is right your comment ‘I hope that those of you who think to the contrary, will listen to some of these voices and be prepared to address afresh your views.’ only applies to those with a vested interested like yourself …..never the other way round. Those that have a differing view are as usual demonised or shaming tactics used to supress open debate. I have a daughter and a son and I know that they both feel that thay can get where they want to on ability alone and my daughetr in particular, who is very successful, got there on merit and she would take exception to having special treament simply because she wears skirts. Her view from her sector is that there is a level playing field and equal opportunity for both men and women if you want to work hard but she feels that a lot of women now have a deeply engrained sense of entitlement simply because they are women.

  16. mark Sykes says:

    Mike, “Do we really want sheep in our boardrooms? ” – I thought we already had that with white male, privately educated board members!
    As regards your refusal to entertain any comment that has not got a research train behind it – sometimes anecdotal evidence is evidence!!
    Regards,
    Mark

  17. Fred says:

    Mark, I don’t know if Mr Buchanan is going to reply to your latest comment, but my own thoughts:

    1. The problem with ‘anecdotal evidence’ is that different people have different anecdotes. I could trot out plenty of anecdotes about the genders in the workplace from a lengthy career in business. I suspect they would largely accord with Mr Buchanan’s anecdotes, based upon what he’s written on this blog and on his own, but I wouldn’t expect them to have the slightest value in the task of devising (for example) government policies. Those policies should be based upon evidence, but the government’s policies in this area clearly fly in the face of the evidence base. They ARE based on anecdotes and opinions.

    2. If you were accused of robbing a bank, the court wouldn’t accept anecdotal evidence to convict you, because natural justice would have been denied. The initiative to push more women onto boards regardless of their merit, or lack of it, is a denial of natural justice. Ah, you might say, it would only be compensation for past ‘wrongs’. If we accepted that line of reasoning – ‘retributive justice – every black adult in the United States should be given a white slave.

    3. I see few anecdotes on this blog but plenty of opinions. People talk confidently of discrimination against e.g. women displayed by FTSE100 boards. How many of these people are talking from personal experience? How many FTSE100 directors do they know? And how would they equate their opinions with the large number of FTSE100 chairman (e.g. Sir Roger Carr, chairman of Centrica, president of the CBI) in the 30% club, committing their organisations to having more women on their boards, despite the absence of any evidence their companies’ performance will improve as a result?

    3. A number of people keep referring to ‘terrible’ male bosses of big companies, being very selective in doing so. Why is there no mention of the 99% of male bosses who do a great job? No mention either of female CEOs who have proved failures (e.g. the Trinity Mirror boss who managed to reduce the value of the company by 90% during her tenure). Last week May Gurney PLC shares fell by 61% which is run by a women. Today we’ve seen the fiasco of the collapse of the West Coast Main Line franchise bidding process. Why was at the helm at the DoT when this fiasco was going on? Justine Greening MP, a young women clearly appointed to make a women-friendly PM look more ‘acceptable’ to women voters. She’s now with DfID – will she be held accountable for her incompetence whilst at DoT? No – not a snowball’s chance in hell. Will Trinity Mirror, May Gurney PLC or the DoT fiasco be taken as evidence of gender-typical incompetence? Of course not, and nor should it be. So long as you spin this as a gender v gender issue (or even add in a touch of racism, as in ‘white males’) you’ll end up putting forward absurd arguments. The competition is between individuals, not between genders.

    Mark, I don’t know if Mr Buchanan is going to reply to your latest comment, but my own thoughts:

    1. The problem with ‘anecdotal evidence’ is that different people have different anecdotes. I could trot out plenty of anecdotes about the genders in the workplace from a lengthy career in business. I suspect they would largely accord with Mr Buchanan’s anecdotes, based upon what he’s written on this blog and on his own, but I wouldn’t expect them to have the slightest value in the task of devising (for example) government policies. Those policies should be based upon evidence, but the government’s policies in this area clearly fly in the face of the evidence base. They ARE based on anecdotes and opinions.

    2. If you were accused of robbing a bank, the court wouldn’t accept anecdotal evidence to convict you, because natural justice would have been denied. The initiative to push more women onto boards regardless of their merit, or lack of it, is a denial of natural justice. Ah, you might say, it would only be compensation for past ‘wrongs’. If we accepted that line of reasoning – ‘retributive justice – every black adult in the United States should be given a white slave.

    3. I see few anecdotes on this blog but plenty of opinions. People talk confidently of discrimination against e.g. women displayed by FTSE100 boards. How many of these people are talking from personal experience? How many FTSE100 directors do they know? And how would they equate their opinions with the large number of FTSE100 chairman (e.g. Sir Roger Carr, chairman of Centrica, president of the CBI) in the 30% club, committing their organisations to having more women on their boards, despite the absence of any evidence their companies’ performance will improve as a result?

    3. A number of people keep referring to ‘terrible’ male bosses of big companies, being very selective in doing so. Why is there no mention of the 99% of male bosses who do a great job? No mention either of female CEOs who have proved failures (e.g. the Trinity Mirror boss who managed to reduce the value of the company by 90% during her tenure). Last week May Gurney PLC shares fell by 61% which is run by a women. Today we’ve seen the fiasco of the collapse of the West Coast Main Line franchise bidding process. Why was at the helm at the DoT when this fiasco was going on? Justine Greening MP, a young women clearly appointed to make a women-friendly PM look more ‘acceptable’ to women voters. She’s now with DfID – will she be held accountable for her incompetence whilst at DoT? No – not a snowball’s chance in hell. Will Trinity Mirror, May Gurney PLC or the DoT fiasco be taken as evidence of gender-typical incompetence? Of course not, and nor should it be. So long as you spin this as a gender v gender issue (or even add in a touch of racism, as in ‘white males’) you’ll end up putting forward absurd arguments. The competition is between individuals, not between genders.

    Mark, I don’t know if Mr Buchanan is going to reply to your latest comment, but my own thoughts:

    1. The problem with ‘anecdotal evidence’ is that different people have different anecdotes. I could trot out plenty of anecdotes about the genders in the workplace from a lengthy career in business. I suspect they would largely accord with Mr Buchanan’s anecdotes, based upon what he’s written on this blog and on his own, but I wouldn’t expect them to have the slightest value in the task of devising (for example) government policies. Those policies should be based upon evidence, but the government’s policies in this area clearly fly in the face of the evidence base. They ARE based on anecdotes and opinions.

    2. If you were accused of robbing a bank, the court wouldn’t accept anecdotal evidence to convict you, because natural justice would have been denied. The initiative to push more women onto boards regardless of their merit, or lack of it, is a denial of natural justice. Ah, you might say, it would only be compensation for past ‘wrongs’. If we accepted that line of reasoning – ‘retributive justice – every black adult in the United States should be given a white slave.

    3. I see few anecdotes on this blog but plenty of opinions. People talk confidently of discrimination against e.g. women displayed by FTSE100 boards. How many of these people are talking from personal experience? How many FTSE100 directors do they know? And how would they equate their opinions with the large number of FTSE100 chairman (e.g. Sir Roger Carr, chairman of Centrica, president of the CBI) in the 30% club, committing their organisations to having more women on their boards, despite the absence of any evidence their companies’ performance will improve as a result?

    3. A number of people keep referring to ‘terrible’ male bosses of big companies, being very selective in doing so. Why is there no mention of the 99% of male bosses who do a great job? No mention either of female CEOs who have proved failures (e.g. the Trinity Mirror boss who managed to reduce the value of the company by 90% during her tenure). Last week May Gurney PLC shares fell by 61% which is run by a women. Today we’ve seen the fiasco of the collapse of the West Coast Main Line franchise bidding process. Why was at the helm at the DoT when this fiasco was going on? Justine Greening MP, a young women clearly appointed to make a women-friendly PM look more ‘acceptable’ to women voters. She’s now with DfID – will she be held accountable for her incompetence whilst at DoT? No – not a snowball’s chance in hell. Will Trinity Mirror, May Gurney PLC or the DoT fiasco be taken as evidence of gender-typical incompetence? Of course not, and nor should it be. So long as you spin this as a gender v gender issue (or even add in a touch of racism, as in ‘white males’) you’ll end up putting forward absurd arguments. The competition is between individuals, not between genders.

    Mark, I don’t know if Mr Buchanan is going to reply to your latest comment, but my own thoughts:

    1. The problem with ‘anecdotal evidence’ is that different people have different anecdotes. I could trot out plenty of anecdotes about the genders in the workplace from a lengthy career in business. I suspect they would largely accord with Mr Buchanan’s anecdotes, based upon what he’s written on this blog and on his own, but I wouldn’t expect them to have the slightest value in the task of devising (for example) government policies. Those policies should be based upon evidence, but the government’s policies in this area clearly fly in the face of the evidence base. They ARE based on anecdotes and opinions.

    2. If you were accused of robbing a bank, the court wouldn’t accept anecdotal evidence to convict you, because natural justice would have been denied. The initiative to push more women onto boards regardless of their merit, or lack of it, is a denial of natural justice. Ah, you might say, it would only be compensation for past ‘wrongs’. If we accepted that line of reasoning – ‘retributive justice – every black adult in the United States should be given a white slave.

    3. I see few anecdotes on this blog but plenty of opinions. People talk confidently of discrimination against e.g. women displayed by FTSE100 boards. How many of these people are talking from personal experience? How many FTSE100 directors do they know? And how would they equate their opinions with the large number of FTSE100 chairman (e.g. Sir Roger Carr, chairman of Centrica, president of the CBI) in the 30% club, committing their organisations to having more women on their boards, despite the absence of any evidence their companies’ performance will improve as a result?

    3. A number of people keep referring to ‘terrible’ male bosses of big companies, being very selective in doing so. Why is there no mention of the 99% of male bosses who do a great job? No mention either of female CEOs who have proved failures (e.g. the Trinity Mirror boss who managed to reduce the value of the company by 90% during her tenure). Last week May Gurney PLC shares fell by 61% which is run by a women. Today we’ve seen the fiasco of the collapse of the West Coast Main Line franchise bidding process. Why was at the helm at the DoT when this fiasco was going on? Justine Greening MP, a young women clearly appointed to make a women-friendly PM look more ‘acceptable’ to women voters. She’s now with DfID – will she be held accountable for her incompetence whilst at DoT? No – not a snowball’s chance in hell. Will Trinity Mirror, May Gurney PLC or the DoT fiasco be taken as evidence of gender-typical incompetence? Of course not, and nor should it be. So long as you spin this as a gender v gender issue (or even add in a touch of racism, as in ‘white males’) you’ll end up putting forward absurd arguments. The competition is between individuals, not between genders.

    An interesting view Mark and I comment as follows:
    1.The problem with “anecdotal evidence” is that different people have different anecdotes. I could trot out plenty of anecdotes about the genders in the workplace from a lengthy career in business. I suspect they would largely accord with Mr Buchanan’s anecdotes, based upon what he has written on this blog and on his own, but I wouldnt expect them to have the slighest value in the task of devising ( for example) government policies. Those policies should be based upon evidence, but the governmnets policies in this area fly in the face of the evidence base. They are based on anecdotes and opinions masquerading as facts.
    2. If you were accused of robbing a bank , the court would not accept anecdotal evidence to convict you , because natural justice would have been denied. The initiative to push more women onto boards regardless of their merit, or lack of it, is a deniel of natural justice.Ah you may say, it would only be compensation for past “wrongs”. If we accept that line of reasoning -retributive justice- every black adult in the USA should be given a white slave.
    3. I see few anecdotes on this blog but plenty of opinions. People talk confidently of discrimination against e.g. women displayed by FTSE 100 boards. How many of these people are talking form personal experince? How many FTSE directors do they know? And how would they equate their opinions with the large number of FTSE chairman( e.g. Sir Roiger Carr, chairman of Centrica, president of the CBIin the 30% club, committing their companies to having more women on their boards, despite the absense of any evidence their companies performance will improve as a result.
    3 A number of people keep referring to “terrible” male bosses of big companies , being very selective in doing so. Why is there no mention of the 99% of male bosses who do a great job? No mention either of female CEO’s who have proved abject failures ( e.g. Trinty Mirror boss who managed to reduce the value of the company by 90% during her tenure. Or the fact that May Gurney PLC share dropped by 61% last week who’s boss is a women.Today we have seen the fiasco of the West Coast Main line franchise bidding process. Who was at the helm at the DoT when this fiasco was going on that will cost the taxpayer £40M?. Justine Greening MP, a young women clearly appointed to make a women -friendly PM look more acceptable to women voters. She is now with Dfid-will she be held accountable for her incompetancewhilst at the DoT? NO- not a snowballs chance in hell. Will the TrinityMirror, May Gurney or Dot fiasco be taken as evidence of gender typical incompetence?. Of course not , and nor should it be. So long as you spin this as a gender V gender issue 9 or even add in a touch of racism, as in “white males”) you will end upputting forward absurb agruments. The competion is between individuals not genders

  18. Fred says:

    Mark, my appologise….. i appear to have uploaded this coment more than once….silly me….I will have to desist form putting gin on my cornflakes in furture!!!!

  19. mark Sykes says:

    Fred ; I did think you were putting your message across quite strongly!!

  20. Susan Archibald says:

    Maybe it’s just me but I kind of got a bit bored with this half way through many good constructive comments but too much tit for tat am afraid xx I suppose am not your ordinary average female as I was brought up with a house full of brothers have worked mostly in a male environment and also sit at the top tables with the boys, depends on the individual I think personally but there are many females out there who could seriously improve and compliment your businesses If afforded the opportunity #Oneshoeneverfitsall x

  21. Fred says:

    Susan, The opportunities to achieve senior roles for women have been there enshrined in law for many years and the brightest women have got there on merit. So they are afforded the opportunity if they want it and those laws to achieve those opportunities were enshrined in law substantially by men and who helped to get them to the top……men. There is nothing stopping women getting to senior roles other than their own ablilities or ambitions despite some of the unfounded rhetoric you have read on this blog.

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    new to me. Regardless, I’m definitely delighted I stumbled upon it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back
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