This week’s Economist has an interesting article on whether quotas work in promoting women to boards. The Economist suggests that it doesn’t.
Quotas are a blunt tool, and have potential to backfire. They also, as the Economist points out, fail to address what I certainly believe to be crucial reason for the continued lack of women at the top: childcare. I do not believe that women should always be the main carer of children — the complexities of who does what in family life are not something the state should be involved in. But women give birth to children, and there is a continued social expectation that mothers will give up work in a way that fathers will not.
I’m sure that there is still both unintentional and more clear-cut forms of sexism at the top of the business — to think otherwise would be naive about the ways in which people climb the business ladder. However, it is the reluctance of many companies to acknowledge that individuals have a family life outside of work which is particularly damaging to ambitions to get more women into the boardroom.
This is all the more frustrating for the the numerous arguments that flexible working is good for business as well as employees, that happy employees do better for the business, and that company boards containing a variety of different experiences make better decisions.
To get more women on company boards, businesses need to follow the evidence, rather than conform to social expectations. It shouldn’t be this difficult.