Boardroom quotas: Four female entrepreneurs give their opinion

Gender diversity is a hot topic in today's HR scene, but what do female entrepreneurs feel about quotas for women on boards? Read on to find out.

Is now the time for boardroom quotas to be put in place to further diversity in business?

Employers are today faced with pressure to conform to a perceived ideal of fairness when it comes to their workforce. It’s a time when businesses have had to show their hand on their gender pay gaps, there has been concern from some quarters over a perceived prejudice among UK employers towards transgender workers, we’ve heard talk of race and disability-focused employment quotas. It all begs the question: In this brave new world for HR, are we doing it right?

Boardroom quotas for women

On the subject of biological sex, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy recently released a report suggesting businesses should aim for targets of 33 per cent women in senior leadership positions by 2020.

But is this a good idea? Does it mean women will be given the opportunities they deserve at a senior level, or is it just box-ticking; a fruitless exercise that will result in outcomes disproportionate to sector representation? Here, we speak to four female entrepreneurs for their views, which, if you’ll excuse the pun, turn out to be fairly diverse.

Yes, it’s a good idea.

Georgina Coleman, managing director, The Goddess Formula 

We absolutely believe that government-recommended quotas for boards are justified.

You don’t have to look too hard to find that women are still underrepresented on most boards both in the UK and around the world. Without quotas, without set rules that will actively enable more women to enter leadership positions within our society, things are just not likely to change. Unfortunately, too few men – especially in higher-up positions – champion women and their advancement within the workplace, champion women of colour within the workplace.

Many need quotas, programmes or minority encouraged initiatives in place before any sort of action is achieved. Do we wish this was different? Of course we do and that’s why we’re working to change the gender dynamic in our field.

No, it’s not a good idea.

Lisa Clayton, director at VisionEvents Manchester

Do I believe government-recommended quotas for boards are justified? Certainly not.

I think when quotas are put in place, there’s always a chance you see people in places they shouldn’t be and that is purely to box tick rather than being judged on ability and experience. For me, if you are good enough you will be given the opportunity and chance to shine. Having quotas in place could even jeopardise that.

For example, if a quota of five men and five women was incorporated at board level, and a male was to leave but the obvious replacement was a female, this wouldn’t be allowed due to the quota system; that would be wrong and clearly unfair.

Quota systems may seem a good idea but they don’t always work.

It may be a good idea.

Nina Hoedlmayr, 

In general, humans don’t like change and look for excuses why things should be kept that way. This is why it’s important to have an ‘external’ motivation to have more female employees in high management positions as well as boards. However, from an economical point of view it is sometimes very difficult to meet these quotas and at the same time to have the best talent available.

The bottom line is, for me, that I think the quotas were necessary to change the mindset of corporates but I hope that very soon these quotas will not be needed anymore. I hope that these quotas work in changing older mindsets by pushing away outdated preferential treatments, and in the future, the playing field is such a fair and just place that we will look back on the quotas in horror that they ever had to be implemented in the first place.

The quotas are well meant, but if they are only being introduced at the age of professional life, we have missed a trick anyway. If you are going to have any quotas, should they not be introduced at as young an age as possible? I love the idea of hiring a full mixture, but we also must be hiring the best people for a role, therefore, where do we go if we have to fill a quota but there simply aren’t any women that fit the bill, we are in trouble. If the talent pool was a genuine 50/50 split, we would not need the quotas anyway.

Nimisha Raja, founder, Nim’s Fruit Crisps

I think if women have the experience, can do the job, have ambition and put in the same hours as their male counterparts do, then they should be given the same opportunities.

What I do not believe in is quota for quota’s sake. Women need to rise on their own merit and if the company they are working is clearly biased against women then maybe they should consider moving to a more progressive company.

For more content on diversity in business, please visit our sister site DiversityQ.

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of and from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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