British followers of this blog will need no reminding who the vociferous feminist Janet Street-Porter is. This is a woman so full of self-satisfaction that she said on the TV programme Loose Women not long ago:
I’m very intelligent. I’m not boasting, I am very intelligent.
Well, if she’s intelligent, she’s living proof that intelligent people can say (and write) some very stupid things. She excelled herself today in her Daily Mail column, more specifically in the first section:
The gender pay gap commentary is so uninformed and erroneous that I can’t be bothered even to comment on it, let alone challenge it. Life’s too short. Many people have shown the ‘gap’ to be fully accountable by issues such as lines of work, industry sectors, levels of seniority, unsociable working hours and conditions, danger of risk to life and limb (126 of the 128 workplace-related deaths last year were of men) and the like. Yet the myth rolls on, year after year.
Our public challenge relates to something she wrote in the piece, which is equally uninformed and erroneous. She wrote:
I want both sexes to be treated equally and given the same chances, because research shows that more women in charge produces better results for business.
The first part of the statement is itself uninformed and erroneous – women are treated equally and given the same chances – and anyone who doubts this is invited to read Susan Pinker’s The Sexual Paradox or my own The Glass Ceiling Delusion. Our public challenge relates to the second part of her statement:
… research shows that more women in charge produces better results for business.
Campaign for Merit in Business (‘C4MB’) has been in existence since May 2012, and we know of no such ‘research’. Professor Susan Vinnicombe, the head of the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders, for many years the most prominent academic proponent of increased female representation on corporate boards, admitted before a House of Lords inquiry in July 2012 that she knew of no such research:
She stated to the inquiry:
… there has been quite a push in the past – indeed, we ourselves have engaged in such research – to look at the relationship between having women on corporate boards and financial performance. We do not subscribe to this research. We have shared it with chairmen and they do not think that it makes sense. We agree that it does not make sense. You cannot correlate two or three women on a massive corporate board with a return on investment, return on equity, turnover or profits. We have dropped such research in the past five years and I am pleased to say that Catalyst, which claims to have done a ground-breaking study on this in the US, officially dropped this line of argument last September.
We’re not aware of a single study or report, from anywhere in the world, which shows a causal link between more women on boards and improved corporate financial performance. All reports of which we’re aware, which show correlations, make it perfectly clear that correlations aren’t proof of causation, and they don’t even imply causation. There are far more plausible explanations of those correlations than some ‘gender effect’ fantasy’.
C4MB, on the other hand, has given a lot of exposure to five longitudinal studies (analysing companies in the United States, Germany and Norway) which clearly show a link between increased female representation on boards, and declines in corporate financial performance. Our short briefing paper on the studies, with their full Abstracts:
Over the course of 17 months we’ve invited the government, CBI, Chartered Management Institute, and dozens of other organisations (and hundreds of individuals) who support increasing the proportion of women in boardrooms to challenge these five studies, or to provide evidence of a causal link between increased female representation on boards and improved financial performance. Collectively they’ve provided us with nothing.
By her own estimation Janet Street Porter is a very intelligent woman, so I’m sure she’ll be able to provide the evidence to back her assertion that ‘… research shows that more women in charge produces better results for business.’ I’m about to email her a link to this public challenge, and I’ll ask her to respond by 5pm on 14 October 2013. If she fails to do so, I look forward to adding her to our ‘Hall of Shame’ which consists of proponents of increased female representation on boards who’ve failed to respond to similar public challenges in the past. A small selection: