Following Norway’s introduction of a 40% quota for female directors of listed companies in 2008, gender quotas have been introduced in a variety of countries, including Iceland, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. The European Commission is considering bringing in quotas across the UK, whilst governments in Australia, Britain and Sweden have all discussed imposing quotas if businesses continue to fail to appoint female directors voluntarily.
Why are quotas needed?
A key reason for introducing quotas is that although women make up the majority of graduates, the percentage of women in positions of senior leadership is significantly lower than that of men – this year women accounted for only 20.7% of board positions in the FTSE 100.
Norway: leading the way?
Whilst Norway’s introduction of the law was slated by some, it has proven to be a success, with many companies stating that they’ve found no problems with the legislation in practice.
People were initially concerned that diversity would actually be decreased by the quota, as companies would be fighting to employ the same women, however this concern has not come to fruition, with male directors still twice as likely to sit on more than one board.
A final concern was that forcing a 40% quota would mean that the boards became dramatically less qualified, yet statistics show that female Norwegian board members are more likely to have a degree than their male counterparts.