Started by slayton, Nov 07, 2010, 04:04 PM
Government drive for more women on company boards# guardian.co.uk, Sunday 7 November 2010 18.46 GMT Companies could be compelled to ensure that at least 40% of their directors are women under one option being considered by a government review, it has been revealed.Lord Davies of Abersoch, a former trade minister who is drawing up proposals for ministers, said that imposing a quota was one of the options that he was examining and that the level would have to be set at 30% or 40% to make a real difference.The Labour peer, who is a former chairman of Standard Chartered, was invited by the government in August to develop a strategy to increase the number of women on the boards of British companies. David Cameron raised this as an issue during the general election, and the coalition has highlighted research showing that in 2009 only 12.2% of FTSE 100 companies, and only 7.3% of FTSE 250 companies, were women.Davies is still consulting on the issue, and his proposals are not due to go to ministers until the end of the year, but in the Sunday Times yesterday he said that compulsion would be one option."What we need is a fundamental change in the attitude of chairmen in terms of board representation," he said."There is a range of options. One of them is to bring in a direct quota or a timeline that leads to a quota. My view is that to say 20% of people on a board should be women is not enough. It has to be 30% or 40% to make a real change."Davies said there would be no need for quotas if companies were to voluntarily increase the number of female directors they appoint. But he said that that would require "radical change" and that the pressure would have to come from shareholders. "They are the owners of the company and they should want the boards to represent their workforce and society."Some countries already have a quota. In Norway it is set at 40%.As part of his terms of reference, Davies was asked to consider the obstacles to women becoming company directors, as well as international practice in this area. His report will be presented to Vince Cable, the business secretary, and Lynne Featherstone, the equalities minister.The coalition has said that its "aspiration" is for half of the new appointees to the boards of public bodies to be women by 2015.