As the number of women on boards nearly doubles from 2011, are quotas unnecessary?

(Source: Getty)

Liz Bingham, managing partner for talent, UK & Ireland, at EY, says Yes

Yes – but we must remain vigilant. I would be the first to advocate quotas if progress either stalls, or we start going backwards. However, it is important to remember that diversity isn’t just a boardroom issue, so can’t be solved by quotas alone. We should not be satisfied until we achieve gender parity and, to do that, businesses need to focus on building talent pipelines at every rung of the career ladder – not just where it is most visible at the boardroom table. We all have a responsibility to fan the flames of change by creating inclusive environments where equality for all is cherished and everyone can flourish. We must redouble our efforts to increase women in executive positions, not just non-executive roles. We must also avoid the phenomenon of “Golden Skirts,” where only a small number of women hold multiple appointments. If we can do all that, we can declare quotas redundant.

Fiona Hathorn, managing director of Women on Boards UK, says No

The lack of female talent at the top of our industries is alarming, and frankly unacceptable. In research recently conducted by Women on Boards UK, 80 per cent of respondents agreed that the government should implement mandatory boardroom quotas for public bodies. This shows that it’s not an isolated few that want change – it’s a wide-reaching issue that affects women and men across the country. Change is happening, but progress in getting the business benefits of cultural inclusion has been glacial – and there’s not much sign that global warming will happen in the UK anytime soon. The progress that has been made is patchy; there needs to be specific measures put in place to stop boardrooms being saturated with one gender. Germany has successfully introduced quotas, and their industries are all the better for it. They have understood that inherently non-competitive institutional biases need to be addressed proactively for the economic benefit of all.

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