Heather McGregor corrects the misleading statement she made to a House of Commons inquiry

When you read the assertions made by proponents of increased female representation in boardrooms, you find a considerable number which have no basis in reality. A whole language has been developed to present a credible but ultimately fantasy-driven picture of the supposed advantages women bring when appointed to the senior reaches of major organisations, when the overwhelming evidence is that performance declines, mainly because quotas – or the threat of them, as we have in the UK – inevitably forces organisations to appoint female directors who are less well qualified than the most highly qualified men available.

Proponents of increased female representation in boardrooms often make statements which are factually wrong, and it’s rare for parliamentary inquiries to notice the fact, and challenge witnesses accordingly. On 20 November 2012 I gave evidence (along with Dr Catherine Hakim, Dr Heather McGregor and Steve Moxon) to the House of Commons inquiry ‘Women in the Workplace’. Heather McGregor owns and runs Taylor Bennett, a London-based headhunting company. In her evidence to the inquiry, she proudly referred to the fact that of the 22 directors and employees of her company, 20 are women. Gender equality is a fine thing when women are in charge of hiring and firing.

In her evidence to the inquiry Heather McGregor – well-known for her television appearances and her articles in the Financial Times – made a claim which was factually untrue. I’d spoken at length about five longitudinal studies which all show that when more women are appointed to corporate boards, corporate financial performance declines. This is an extract from the original (uncorrected) transcript of what followed:

Chair: Have you read these longitudinal studies that Mike Buchanan has talked about? If you have, have you any comment on them?

Dr McGregor: I believe that Mr Buchanan is referring to a study in Norway, but I do not know because he has not said so. The study in Norway, where they have had quotas, Mr Chairman, shows that there has been no change in the financial performance of companies (my emphasis) despite the fact that they now have 40% of women on boards.

The text I’ve emphasised is factually incorrect. I put up a blog post on the matter (link below), then emailed her and asked her to correct the statement.

https://c4mb.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/an-invitation-to-heather-mcgregor/

In the absence of a response, I contacted the clerk of the committee, asking that the matter be brought to the attention of the inquiry’s chairman, Adrian Bailey MP. I don’t know if Dr McGregor corrected the statement voluntarily or after coming under pressure to do so, but the corrected report has just been published:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmbis/c754-i/c754i.pdf

On page 25 we note the following:

Chair: Have you read these longitudinal studies that Mike Buchanan has talked about? If you have, have you any comment on them?

Dr McGregor: I believe that Mr Buchanan is referring to a study in Norway, but I do not know because he has not said so. The study in Norway, where they have had quotas, Mr Chairman, shows that there has been negative impact on financial performance (my emphasis) due to the precipitous nature of the way quotas have been introduced in that country. The 30% Club interest in the Norway experience is very much around the fact that despite quotas we still do not have a sustainable pipeline of women in executive positions. Despite the fact that you have this wonderful headline of 40% of women on boards, you do not have either a pipeline of senior women or women CEOs; in fact, their averages for both of those statistics are lower than a European-wide average.

What she’s admitting is that quotas have driven poorly-qualified women onto Norwegian boards, which has impaired financial performance. The British government’s threat of quotas is driving poorly-qualified women onto FTSE100 boards. Why should the outcome be any different to that experienced in Norway?

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About Mike Buchanan

I'm a men's human rights advocate, writer, and publisher. My primary focus is leading the political party I launched in 2013, Justice for Men & Boys (and the women who love them). I still work actively on two campaigns I launched in early 2012, Campaign for Merit in Business and the Anti-Feminism League. In 2014 I launched The Alternative Sexism Project, aiming to raise public understanding that the sexism faced by men and boys has far more grievous consequences than the sexism faced by women and girls.
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3 Responses to Heather McGregor corrects the misleading statement she made to a House of Commons inquiry

  1. Pingback: We repeat our public challenge to Caroline Criado-Perez |

  2. Pingback: We repeat our challenge to Caroline Criado-Perez | Campaign for Merit in Business

  3. Pingback: We repeat our public challenge to Caroline Criado-Perez | Fighting Feminism

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