Quotas the “only way to increase number of women in boardrooms” say women’s business networks

The research presents a sobering view from the ground a year after the government-commissioned Davies report concluded that companies needed to achieve 25 per cent of women on UK boards by 2015 or face compulsory government measures.

The poll asked leaders of 30 corporate women’s networks, representing well over 10,000 women at some of Britain’s top firms, what had changed since the Davies report was released in February last year revealed that: Two thirds had seen no change in the opportunities for women in their companies, with 80 per cent of those surveyed saying that they think that it will take up to 20 years to reach 30 per cent of women in the executive suite with a further 20 per cent thinking it will take even longer.

However 67 per cent believed that the introduction of quotas will be needed to achieve the target of 25 per cent of women in senior positions by 2015.

Just a few weeks ago Prime Minister, David Cameron, said that he wanted to “accelerate” the increase in women on the board of top UK firms, preferably without resorting to quotas, but did not rule them out. This survey suggests that women in management don’t believe that self-regulation will be enough.

Averil Leimon, co-founder of White Water Group, said: “Statistically the proportion of female directors at FTSE 100 companies rose from 12.5 per cent in 2010 to 15 per cent in 2011, but the women we spoke to don’t feel that change is going fast enough or far enough. Quotas may be a blunt instrument but they may be inevitable.

“We don’t believe, however, that compulsion will be enough to create change and reap the benefits of a more diverse management team. Our survey revealed that many women want more visible involvement from men, who will support the clear business case for more women in senior posts. This means mentoring women, investing in coaching and encouraging more female role models, as well as improving fairness in work practices.”

“Getting this right is not just about careers for women; it’s essential for the economy as a whole. We’ve shown that businesses with equal numbers of men and women at the senior management level are more profitable than businesses with predominantly male leaders. What’s more, demographic shifts mean that by 2030 the UK will be short of 1.3m people of leadership age. More women in senior management would address both these issues.”

Paul Jones

Editor of Business Matters, the UKs largest business magazine


Editor of Business Matters, the UKs largest business magazine