I’ll be debating issues surrounding quotas for women in boardrooms with Heather Rabbatts (link below) on the BBC2 show Daily Politics next Monday (28 January), possibly sometime between 12.00 and 12.30.
[Following material added 25.1.13]
Last November I gave evidence to the House of Commons inquiry into ‘Women in the Workplace’. In December Ms Rabbatts gave evidence to the same inquiry. The minutes of that session are on pp 29-46 of the following PDF:
Now while much of Ms Rabbatts’s testimony was interesting, I particularly enjoyed that of Margaret Mountford. Anya Hindmarch also made some very good points. A couple of extracts from the minutes, featuring the redoubtable Margaret Mountford:
Q236 Julie Elliott: Thank you. Do you think it is important that women such as you are seen as trailblazers or role models, or do you think that gender is irrelevant?
Dr Mountford: I think gender is irrelevant. I think women do not do themselves any favours by having women’s groups—and women’s this, that and the other. If you look at a job, you look at who the best person for it is. I never perceived things in gender terms. I can remember interviewing a prospective trainee and being asked how many women partners we had in my City law firm. I said, “I do not have a clue. I have never counted them.” That is not relevant; it should not be relevant. I find it rather alarming that we are still sitting here discussing these things when we have heard the same old stuff year after year after year.
Q237 Julie Elliott: If it is not relevant and we assume the population is equally talented among the genders, then why are there so few women on boards?
Dr Mountford: They do not stay the course to get there—that is my feeling. There are issues as to why they do not stay the course. The point is not sticking token non-executives on boards; the point is having women at senior executive levels coming through. Nobody wants anybody as a non-executive on their board who does not have relevant experience. Nobody wants to be the token woman on the board. We have to stop women leaving the professions and business at these intermediate levels. It is not a board issue at all. They leave for a variety of reasons. More of them leave now because perhaps there are more choices—certainly at the more senior level.
(And later in the session, the following gem.)
Q265 Caroline Dinenage: I think I know the answer to this question.
Dr Mountford: Ask a different one, then.