The following letter was sent on 14 February 2012 to John Cridland, Director General of the CBI, and an associated press release sent to all major British newspapers and current affairs periodicals:
14 February 2012
Dear Mr Cridland,
A challenge relating to the CBI’s ‘gender balance in the boardroom’ policy
A cornerstone of capitalism is the freedom of companies to appoint their directors on the basis of merit, experience and expertise. It is therefore regrettable that the CBI sees fit to influence the freedom of companies in this area for the sake of ‘improving’ the gender balance of UK corporate boards. The arguments for doing so rest upon nothing more than radical feminist fantasies, lies, delusions and myths, and the move risks damaging the only wealth-generating sector in the economy.
I recently had exchanges with a senior colleague and yourself about your December 2010 report, ‘Room at the top: improving gender diversity on UK corporate boards’. 14 individuals are credited with ‘supporting’ the report; nine are women, and all five of the men are on record as supporting ‘improved’ gender balance on boards. Your colleague informs me, ‘Like all our policies, it was prepared in full consultation with our members, and the report enjoyed broad support from the other CBI committees when they were consulted. You will understand that the CBI’s governance is a matter for its members, and I will not comment further on this’. The report’s assertions and conclusions were predictable.
It’s my firm belief that – despite protestations to the contrary – the CBI isn’t reflecting the views of many (possibly most) of its members in pressing for more gender balance in the boardroom, and is reinforcing this government’s inclination to compel companies to introduce gender quotas in the event that they don’t increase gender balance ‘voluntarily’. I challenge the CBI to work with me on appointing a reputable polling organisation to gather responses to the following questions from a representative cross-section of CBI member companies, and to agree in advance to making the results publicly available:
Do you agree with the CBI’s conclusion that corporate performance would improve as a result of an increase in the gender balance of company boards?
Do you agree that companies should be compelled through legislation to increase the proportion of women on their boards, in the event that they fail to do so ‘voluntarily’?