Over the past year the issue of introducing female quotas into the boardroom of UK companies has been bubbling under the surface, and now it soon will be here as the Government has submitted evidence into the Financial Reporting Council (a body that sets the overall rules as to how boards of plc's should work) asking them to find a way to increase female representation.
This follows the lead of Norway who introduced a legally binding 40% quota for their boardrooms, with Spain following in 2009, then France (1 and 2) this year plus German firm Deutsche Telekom. Italy and Holland may also follow.
This issue was brought to life in the UK becausepeople like Harriet Harman and the institutional oxymoron ,the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, blamed the financial crisis on men, declaring it avoidable if there were less men running banks.
Quotas are wrong because they undermine the basic principles of a liberal democracy where everyone is equal and to be judged equally. Their gender, race etc is irrelevant. Bringing in quotas would mean that some people (men) would be denied a position on the Board solely because of their gender, not what they could offer. This is discrimination. As mentioned before, it affects their wives/girlfriends and daughters and sisters and mothers, as men do not live in isolation.
The way the UK Government is undertaking this is very subtle and pernicious. It has already built in discrimination against men at all levels of employment through the Equalities Act but rather than deal with the boardroom issue with a sledgehammer like other countries, it is trying to influence those who make business rules. These rules (known as the Combined Code) are based on what is known as a "Comply or Explain" whereby companies only have to explain why they do not adhere to the rules and it is up to shareholders to then vote them down.
The issue is that if these quotas are accepted by the Financial Reporting Council, they then become the normal way that companies have to behave. They would do so to avoid the risk of shareholder censure or simply having their reputation dragged through the mud by Harman and others. Once it is the norm then it makes easier for any quota rules to be passed through Parliament.
The Government's proposals like, all their anti-male proposals, are the thin end of the wedge. They seem 'harmless' to many at the time but once the inch has been taken, it will be soon be a mile.
Posted by Skimmington