I have previously (and wrongly) been accused of being sexist, which is why I hesitate to write this post: but I hope you’ll forgive me when I suggest that, in my opinion, the recent initiative to have women making up at least 40% of the board of directors in a company by 2020 is a terrible idea.
Not only is it a terrible idea, but I would be so bold as to say that it is a step away from equality, a move made in completely the wrong direction. There is no denying that, at present, women make up only a small percentage of the board; but by passing a ruling which sets this percentage at a certain level you are merely treating the symptoms, and not the causes, of the problem.
I’ve not done enough research to venture exactly what these causes are – an undercurrent of sexism in higher management? A lack of support for businesswomen? – but what I do know is that if I was a woman I would be deeply offended by the notion that I could be shoe-horned into a board of directors because I have breasts, not because I have the relevant skills and experience for the job. The initiative is short-sighted and patronising. It’s like choosing the fat kid for the school football team because you want to look inclusive, not because you think he’ll be a useful asset to the squad. Sort out the reasons why there is a lack of women in the top tier of management, instead of debating a ruling which many (myself included) perceive as demeaning.
Not only is it demeaning, but it can be seen as sexism against men. Say there are ten people on a board of directors, and one resigns, leaving six men and three women. By this ruling a woman would have to be elected to the board, regardless of experience or quality. Businessmen would feel aggrieved that they could not even be considered: businesswomen would feel irritated that their promotion was a matter of fulfilling a legal obligation. A hypothetical scenario, granted, and on many occasions the businesswoman might be the right person for the job, but hopefully you can see my point.
From what I’ve heard and read so far, my thoughts match those of many women. There is an abundance of businesswomen whose skills match or exceed those of their male peers, and vice versa. Positive steps do need to be taken to ensure equality: but not at the price of a person’s dignity.