This challenge relates to the drive to increase female representation on major corporate boards. I thought it might be timely to explain why we cover this topic so frequently given – as people sometimes point out – it would appear to affect relatively few men, and well-off men at that. There are a number of reasons:
1. There is clear evidence (from longitudinal studies) that increasing female representation on boards leads to corporate financial decline. This is only to be expected. Far fewer women than men have the work ethic and professional experience and expertise for major corporate board positions, so to increase female representation better-qualified men have to be sidelined.
2. Given the opportunity, women’s in-class preferences will lead them to appoint and promote women in preference to better-qualified men. This phenomenon was well described in Steve Moxon’s The Woman Racket (2008).
3. Campaign for Merit in Business remains, to the best of my knowledge, the only organisation in the world campaigning on this issue, and we’re not in the habit of dropping initiatives we believe to be important.
4. My experience as a business executive over 30 years (1979-2010), much of it in business consultancy roles, told me that feminist narratives on the ‘glass ceiling’ and the ‘gender pay gap’ were ludicrous. My book The Glass Ceiling Delusion: the real reasons more women don’t reach senior positions was published in 2011, at a time my understanding of feminism was a fraction of what it is today. It’s still available to buy on Amazon and elsewhere.
5. The government continues to press FTSE100 companies to appoint more women to their boards, despite having been presented with the evidence of the likely impact on corporate financial performance by me in House of Commons and House of Lords inquiries in 2012.
6. The government’s bullying of companies is profoundly anti-meritocratic and therefore unConservative.
7. The government has a longer-term goal of gender parity on FTSE350 boards. This will require a tenfold preferencing of women over men. Put another way, for every 10 women appointed in a bid for gender parity, nine of them could be replaced by better-qualified men (probably many better-qualified men).
8. The capitulation of major businesses to these initiatives embarrasses me, as a former business executive. Perhaps driven by chivalry, some businessmen may have believed the relentless stream of propaganda about increasing female representation on boards being good for corporate performance. But I doubt that businessmen as a class have suddenly become less intelligent than they were formerly, and I think there’s a more troubling explanation for their lack of resistance. To the best of my knowledge, not one FTSE350 executive has raised any objections publicly, and organisations such as the CBI have long been keen on increasing female representation on boards. Our suspicion is there’s a Faustian pact going on here. FTSE100 companies aren’t raising objections, in return for the government’s private assurances that ever-smaller companies will be affected over time. Smaller companies will be disproportionately badly affected than larger ones, so FTSE100 companies support the government’s anti-competitive policy direction.
9. Big businesses share with the government a wish to see ever more women in paid employment, which has a deflationary impact on salaries, and leads to increased demand for goods and services as well as higher tax revenues for the government.
This brings us to an article written by Chris Blackhurst and published by the Evening Standard last Thursday. Astonishingly, he’s calling for the government’s target for FTSE100 companies of 25% female representation on their boards by the end of this year – the proportion reached 24.6% on 14 May – to be replaced by a 25% target for executive directors (mainly chief executives and finance directors).
Last Friday we sent Chris Blackhurst a public challenge. If he doesn’t respond by June 24, or his response is deemed inadequate by the Awards Committee – which is due to meet the next day – he’ll become a Toady award winner.