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Should FTSE 100 companies bring in quotas for women?

Each week we ask two writers with contrasting opinions to answer the question...


2012 HAS been seen as a doomsday year for everyone, from the Ancient Mayans to Hollywood. Yet this year has seen many ground-breaking initiatives establish themselves in the UK, many of which I have been lucky enough to attend.

The WIE [Women in Enterprise] symposium, known for celeb attendance in the USA, hit UK shores on International Women’s Day. This summer, the first “Girls in Tech” chapter, a global networking organisation for women in technology was launched and a woman was named as the head of Amazon’s new Digital Hub.

However, the stark imbalance between women consumers and the corporate workforce calls for stronger action than just networking events.

In the technology industry alone, only 17 percent of the workforce is female, whereas women are responsible for 4 out of 10 technology purchases. According to Lady Geek, an organisation campaigning to get more women in technology, young girls are “5 times less likely to consider a career in technology and gaming and this is decreasing by 0.5 percent a year. If it continues like this, by 2045 there won’t be a single woman working in technology.” 

Recruiters have the terrible habit of recruiting people in their own image. This is an exclusionary practice. Only 15% of the FTSE 100 [companies with the largest value on the stock market] directors were female at the start of 2012, but when Cranfield University discovered that only 6.6 percent of FTSE 100 executive  directors . Quotas are needed to introduce an inclusionary culture for women in the boardroom, who are often side-lined in favour of their “old boys club” colleagues.

When women represent 51% of the population, why shouldn’t we complain? It is often mooted that if Lehman Brothers, the prestigious firm that triggered the 2008 stock market crash, were “Lehman Sisters”, the stock market crash wouldn’t have happened. Women are more cautious and provide a counter-weight to the “do now, think later”, stripper-addled testosterone –fuelled culture of the boardroom.

Quotas for women in the boardroom are a necessarily evil. Younger women need female role models in the corporate world and ultimately, more careful decisions need to be made from the top by women, to prevent our future from becoming altogether less predictable.



EMPLOYING QUOTAS for females in FTSE companies would mean people getting employed for pre-determined genetic factors and not because they necessarily deserve, or are suited to the role. Surely you females out there (all 51% of you) wouldn’t want this? I know I would rather be employed because I am good at the job and not because my employer has a quota to fill.

 With specific reference to the ‘do now – think later’ attitude of the so called testosterone fuelled atmosphere, you are forgetting one slight thing. This approach has clearly served these companies well. They are in the top 100 on the London Stock Exchange. Not to be taken lightly.

Now if these were ailing, struggling companies in desperate need of an injection of influence then I would say: “YES! Fix up, look sharp, and bring the girls in.” The fact of the matter is that these companies aren’t just doing ok. They aren’t just getting by. These companies demonstrate the pinnacle of business success.  They are, to embezzle a phrase, ‘winning!’

But not everything in the world is that simple and nor should everything be equal. By encouraging a quota do you really think you will be influencing these boardrooms to become more feminine? This would not be the case. The women would become quickly accustomed to the masculine environment and through a desire to remain there, adapt to it.  Equality is never truly equal, it regularly requires compromise. Yes, you may argue that a quota is a fair compromise. But should these successful businesses really be compromising on their clearly successful business models?

To enforce a quota for equality’s sake is PC gone mad. By all means if a woman deserves the job then she should be employed, but it is ridiculous to think that a better candidate would miss out on the role because the quota hadn’t been filled.

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