Helena Morrissey’s testimony to the House of Lords inquiry on ‘Women on Boards’

Earlier this week I was notified of the publication of the minutes of the 15 October meeting of the House of Lords committee investigating ‘Women on Boards’ (see earlier post). The whole session consisted of a discussion with the Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson, which soon developed into the sort of well-rehearsed but mind-numbingly flawed left-wing propaganda exercise we’ve come to expect.

It then occurred to me that we have yet to see the minutes of an earlier meeting of the committee, held on 23 July, when the peers quizzed Helena Morrissey. I emailed the clerk of the committee, pointing out the non-appearance of the minutes. The minutes were published earlier today:

120723 Helena Morrissey’s testimony to the House of Lords inquiry ‘Women on Boards’

Regular visitors to this blog know we’ve driven many coaches and herds of horses through Mrs Morrissey’s arguments in the past, and most of her testimony on 23 July consisted of variants of those arguments, so I won’t waste your time (or mine) by repeating our counter-arguments. I’ll limit myself to two things on this post. Firstly, to express my surprise that Mrs Morrissey seemed unaware that Catalyst had ceased claiming positive links between more women on boards and enhanced corporate performance, a revelation made by Susan Vinnicombe (Cranfield) in an earlier committee hearing. You’d have thought someone might have informed Mrs M of the about-turn made by Catalyst, wouldn’t you? In Mrs M’s defence, she’s a rather busy businesswoman, campaigner, and mother of nine children. She can’t be expected to keep every plate spinning all the time.

For me, an intriguing issue was raised towards the end of the session:

Baroness Valentine: While the number of non-executive directorships held by women increases, we have heard that the number of female executives remains ‘stubbornly low’. If this stubbornness persists, how can this be addressed? Could quotas or other concerted EU action serve as a driver to tackle this entrenched problem?

Helena Morrissey: Blah, blah, blah… [the early part of Mrs M’s response has been summarised by C4MB, as an act of charity]. I went to Stockholm in February with the Prime Minister to the Northern Future Forum, where it was very interesting to hear from the Scandinavian and Baltic leaders about their experiences. Even in those countries where family situations are shared – childcare, for example, is quite different from in this country – they were still stuck at, at best, 30% women in senior roles. So there is something beyond. I do not think that anyone has quite put their finger on what it is.

Au contraire, Mrs M, someone decidedly has ‘put their finger on what it is’, and some years ago, too. Catherine Hakim, the renowned sociologist, did so with the publication of her Preference Theory (2000). (See earlier posts). Her research led her to conclude that only one in seven women is ‘work-centred’. Now surely we’d expect this work orientation to be critical for anyone seeking to become an executive director of a major business? Mrs M herself is an outstanding example of the type, ironically. She seems curiously blind as to how unusual she is for someone of the female persuasion.

Catherine Hakim also found that four in seven men are ‘work-centred’. These findings alone would lead us to expect a gender balance on boards of 80% men / 20% women, even before we consider other factors tilting the ‘imbalance’ yet further, such as gender-typical choices of functional disciples, and men considerably outnumbering women in the business sector. We’re led, logically, to an inescapable conclusion:

Women are over-represented on major corporate boards.

With two of the four female CEOs in the FTSE100 (Pearson, Anglo American) expected to be replaced by men, we shall have small triumphs of merit over social engineering. Can you imagine the effort and expense that must have gone into finding replacement female CEOs for these two companies?

Have a good weekend.

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