By Max Clarke
Members of the UK200Group of independent accountancy and lawyer firms have commented on the report by Lord Davies that urges FTSE 350 companies to boost the percentage of women at the board table by 25 percent by 2015, or they will face government measures.
Jonathan Russel, partner, ReesRusselll:
“The Government thinks that legislation is the answer to everything. They state that there is a barrier stopping women reaching the top jobs in industry but have they necessarily asked the question as to what that barrier is? Is the barrier merely gender? If so, that is wrong.
“For every top job, what is the proportion of male vs female applicants? Are the applicants of equal ability and availability? In many high calibre positions and professions, females equal or even outnumber males but often do not take the very top jobs, not because of ability or opportunity, but because of personal life choices.
“No employer in its right mind is going to turn down the best applicant for a job just because of gender, race or any other factor, as commercially that would be stupid. However, it must be remembered that a very wide range of factors can matter when choosing the best person.”
Anthony Harris, director, Critchleys:
“My view is that this is not an issue the government should be involved in. The shareholders of larger companies should seek to ensure that the best candidates are appointed for the top jobs within the company, regardless of gender.
“It is unreasonably patronising to say that there should be quota’s of women on any board. When appointed, how would any woman feel if she is likely to be thought of as being there just to fulfil a quota as opposed to being the best person for the job?
“There is a growing number of women in senior management positions (non directorial) in these companies and in the next few years this is likely to be reflected in more directorial positions for women regardless of quotas. One must give time for the move to gender equality in the workplace in order for more women on boards. They should come up through the ranks of management in companies as opposed to artificially thrusting them forwards to achieve quotas. Gender equality at all levels will take a ‘working lifetime’, and will not happen overnight or even over twenty years.”
Andrew Watkin, Baker Watkin:
“It is definitely a glass ceiling and in my opinion for the wrong reasons! It's more a culture standing and government initiatives will not help. If one company can demonstrate the value that women bring to the board, then other companies will follow - they would be daft not to! Governments cannot help here and interference is likely to be resisted.”