Skip to content

Our public challenge of Mark Carney, Governor, Bank of England

We’ve just posted a public challenge of Mark Carney on the J4MB website – here.

Is Ruth Sunderland (Daily Mail journalist) willing to engage with evidence showing that placing more women on corporate boards leads to financial decline?

[Note added 2.8.14: Ruth Sunderland has been on holiday, but I see from an article in today’s Daily Mail that she’s now back at work. I’ll email her a link to this piece and ask her if she’s now willing to engage with the evidence we presented to her.]

[Note added 2.7.14: I’m pleased to say Ruth Sunderland has asked for materials supporting our position, and I’ve just emailed some to her.]

Ruth Sunderland is a business journalist with the Daily Mail, one of many journalists who relentlessly peddle the idea that having more women on boards is ‘a good thing’ and refuse to engage with the evidence which shows that driving up female representation on boards leads to corporate financial decline, a matter covered exhaustively on this website. Our briefing paper with the Abstracts of five longitudinal studies is here.

I’ve posted and commented on one or two of Ms Sunderland’s articles before. My thanks to Jeff for pointing me to her recent article on Glencore’s appointment of its first female director. It contains a gem of a sentence, and I’ll comment on its two constituent parts:

There is no hard evidence that having women on the board causes better performance…

Almost correct. If you remove the word ‘hard’ these words are true, but still misleading. As our briefing paper shows, placing more women on boards leads to declines in corporate financial performance. Onto the second part of the sentence:

…but there is a strong correlation.

Ms Sunderland is clearly leading us to believe this correlation is of significance in supporting the promotion of more women onto boards. In all the reports we’ve analysed – including those from the feminist campaign group Catalyst, to which Ms Sunderland refers – it’s made crystal clear that correlation isn’t evidence of causation, and can’t even be taken to imply it.

I think we could agree there’s a correlation between how much wealth men have (or are expected to have one day) and the attractiveness of the women they marry – but we don’t say that attractive women make men wealthier, do we?

Yesterday I called the Daily Mail and left a message on Ms Sunderland’s answerphone, explain I head up J4MB and C4MB, and outlined why I’d appreciate a phone discussion. Not having heard from her, I left a second message this morning. She called back about half an hour ago, but unfortunately I didn’t have my mobile with me at the time. She left the following message:

I very much doubt whether either I will convince you or you will convince me (laughs). This is not a subject I’ve just hit upon and not given any thought to. I’ve done a lot of reading, a lot of discussion, and a lot of thinking about it, and I very much doubt given the organisation you come from (laughs) and the fact you seem to think women perform worse than men, we would really move the situation much further on, so personally I think we would be better off just to agree to differ.

I called back and left another message on her answerphone, explaining this isn’t an issue on which we could ‘agree to differ’, because the evidence base shows her convictions to be demonstrably false. I asked for her email address to present that evidence, and sent it to her. I’ll update this blog piece if she responds.

Use all-women shortlists for top jobs to solve chronic shortage of female executives, says Vince Cable

To call Vince Cable an idiot would be to insult idiots:

This is the man who once said that if he were prime minister, he would follow President Francois Hollande’s example and have a gender-balanced cabinet. Well, that’s worked out well for France, hasn’t it?

Our associated organisation Campaign for Merit in Business has presented concrete evidence to Comrade Cable, the department he leads – Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills – as well as House of Commons and House of Lords inquiries, showing that increasing the proportion of women on corporate boards leads to financial decline.

We’ve put in FoI requests seeking evidence for the government’s previous claims that putting more women on boards will lead to performance improvement. None has ever been forthcoming. This hasn’t stopped the government from continuing to threaten legislated gender quotas for FTSE100 boards if they haven’t achieved female representation on their boards by 2015. In fact, they’re going further. We know from a recent report that next in the firing line will be the FTSE350, and that gender parity on boards is the longer-term goal.

As we’ve said repeatedly, it’s time to sell FTSE100 and FTSE-listed shares.


Mike Buchanan on a panel discussing ‘women in senior roles’ on London Live TV

‘London Live TV’ was launched last week. It’s run by a sister company of two left-leaning papers, the Independent and the Evening Standard. I was invited onto a discussion panel on one of their flagship lunchtime shows. The presenter, Claudia-Liza Armah, emailed me the following beforehand. My thoughts are in square brackets:

“We’ll be asking why we need quotas to get women on boards.”

[We need neither quotas, nor the threat of them, given we know that increasing female representation on boards leads to corporate financial decline. Our briefing paper on the matter: %5D

“Is enough being done to encourage and help women to progress to senior roles?”

[Too much is being done, mainly at taxpayers’ expense, although men pay 72% of the income tax collected in the UK, women only 28%. Given that on average women in senior roles perform less well than men – and virtually all the women on FTSE100 boards are only non-executive directors – NOTHING should be done to ‘encourage’ or ‘help’ women.]

“What effect are initiatives such as this having on men in the workplace?”

[Men see women being promoted ahead of them, even when the women are markedly less experienced and/or have less expertise. Almost every week we’re emailed stories – from men in both public sector and private sector organisations – of women being promoted above more experienced male colleagues, and the male colleagues then having to work overtime (invariably unpaid) teaching the women how to do their new jobs! Preferencing of women for senior roles solely on the grounds of gender understandably makes men both angry and demotivated.]

I was told two other people would be on the panel. One was Helena Morrissey, the founder and still the leader of The 30% Club, which campaigns for higher female representation on the boards of major British companies. Around a third of FTSE100 chairmen are members

J4MB and its associated organisations have presented many FTSE100 chairmen with ‘Toady’ awards. One of the first was presented to Sir Roger Carr, chairman of Centrica plc. The following piece was prompted by our learning his daughter Caroline was at the time (late 2012) Goldman Sachs’s Global Head of Diversity and Leadership, and on the club’s steering committee.

The other person was Sarah Churchman, Head of Diversity at PwC, an international professional services firm. She was interviewed for International Business Times:

I’m too pushed for time to watch the piece. Harriet Harman MP, our rottweiler, is whining again. She wants to be taken to the park to terrorise the other dogs – the male dogs, specifically. If you watch the piece and think I should watch it – e.g. if Churchman claims (or, more likely, implies) that corporate performance improves when there are more women on boards – please email me Thank you. I’ll then publicly challenge her.

Hours before the discussion I was told Morrissey wouldn’t be joining us. Barbara Kasumu, the chief executive of the charity ‘Elevation Networks’ was replacing her. I spent time on her website and saw nothing to suggest she’d have anything perceptive to say in the discussion.

An hour before the discussion, I was in the ‘green room’ with Barbara. I explained my qualifications to talk about the subject of women (and men) in senior roles, having worked in senior roles in business for 30+ years (until my retirement in 2010) and led Campaign for Merit in Business for the past two years. I explained I’d collected a lot of evidence showing a causal link between increasing female representation on boards and corporate financial decline, and offered her our short briefing paper (the second link in this article) to read, to help her prepare for the discussion. She declined, and spent the remainder of the hour sullenly tapping away on her smartphone.

Not long after, a young woman wearing dangerously high heels marched confidently into the room, and I was introduced to Emma Sinclair, serial entrepreneur, CEO of Target Parking, Daily Telegraph columnist. It transpired that Sarah Churchman, like Helena Morrissey, wouldn’t be joining us. Ms Sinclair promptly exited the room and next met us in the studio just before the discussion, where we were unable to talk.

The video of our discussion is available through this link – click on the file dated 4 April 2014:

The ladies were startled when I said during the discussion that if there’s a ‘need’ for more women in boardrooms, then there’s a ‘need’ for more white sprinters in the Olympics 100 metres men’s final. Emma later ‘tweeted’ about the discussion, and I pointed her to a video. It was created by the man behind the legendary ‘ManWomanMyth’ and ‘Humanity Bites’ YouTube channels. In the video I appear along with Erin Pizzey and Steve Moxon, author of The Woman Racket (2008):

One of my favourite ‘ManWomanMyth’ videos is the one in which he explained that feminism is a female supremacy ideology:

Anti-feminist campaign targets German gender quota proposal

‘Alternative for Germany’ (AfD) is a conservative German political party, launched last year. Our thanks to the loyal supporter who’s just emailed us a link to a fascinating story about an AfD campaign concerned with gender quotas in corporate boardrooms, which are coming to Germany, and will surely harm Germany’s economy gravely:

The Wikipedia page on AfD:

Why you should sell any FTSE350 shares you own – NOW

[Note added 5 March 2014: this piece has just been published by ‘A Voice for Men’, where  we expect it to attract a large number of comments: ]

Do you own shares in any FTSE350 companies? If so, we recommend you sell them as soon as possible, and the objective of this piece is to explain why. The key reason is that the government is intent on bullying FTSE350 companies into having gender parity on their boards, regardless of the overwhelming evidence provided to the government on numerous occasions (including in the course of House of Commons and House of Lords inquiries) by Campaign for Merit in Business (‘C4MB’) which shows conclusively that increasing the proportion of women on corporate boards leads to financial decline. It’s more an inexperience effect than a gender effect. The short C4MB briefing paper on the matter:

Shortly after David Cameron became Prime Minister in May 2010, leading a Conservative-led coalition, he appointed a Labour peer, Lord Davies of Abersoch, to report on how (not whether) to increase the proportion of women on major corporate boards. There was a great deal of talk at that time of the notion that companies could improve their financial performance by appointing more women onto their boards – the much-vaunted ‘business case’ for doing so. The notion was, of course, always a fantasy. To sustain the fantasy, correlations (between female representation on boards, and enhanced financial performance) were misrepresented as causation, something which continues to this day.

The Davies Report was published in February 2011. It’s so ideologically-driven, we doubt the Fawcett Society would disagree with a sentence in it. The report is here:

140304 Davies Report, published February 2011

We recommend you look at page 3 of the report, the first page of the Executive Summary. There you’ll find this:

Evidence suggests that companies with a strong female representation at board and top management level perform better than those without (1) and that gender-diverse boards have a positive impact on performance.(2)

In the report, sources of material cited in references are identified at the base of the pages. Reference (1) takes you to a 2007 McKinsey report, ‘Women Matter’, which explicitly says that observed correlations between female representation on boards and enhanced financial performance aren’t evidence of causation and can’t be taken to even imply causation. Reference (2) is more interesting – because, as you’ll observe at the base of the page, no source of material is cited. We’ve put in numerous FOI requests to the DBIS, including one very recently, so we know that to this day they have no evidence for the causal link they’re clearly implying. In plain English, there’s no ’business case’ for increasing the proportion of women on boards.   

One of the key recommendations of the Davies Report (published in February 2011) was that if FTSE100 companies hadn’t ‘voluntarily’ (we’ll return to this weasel word shortly) achieved 25% female representation on their boards by 2015, the government should consider introducing legislated gender quotas. One of the key contributors to the Davies Report was Professor Susan Vinnicombe, leader of the Cranfield International Centre for Women leaders, who admitted to a House of Lords inquiry that she had no evidence of a causal link between increasing the proportion of women on corporate boards, and enhanced financial performance. Two months ago we publicly challenged her with the following, and have yet to receive a response:

We challenge you to stop misleading people into believing correlations between increased female representation on boards and enhanced financial performance are, or may be, indicative of a beneficial gender effect, thereby justifying in some people’s minds (not ours) the government’s policy direction of pressuring companies to increase the number of women on their boards, through the threat of legislated gender quotas.

We challenge you to critique and discredit the five longitudinal studies which show that increasing female representation on corporate boards leads on average to corporate financial decline.

A link to our blog piece with the background to the challenge of Susan Vinnicombe:

We turn to Charlotte Sweeney, a woman described in the Foreword of a new DBIS report (to which we’ll be referring shortly) as follows:

…a senior HR executive with over 20 years’ experience in equality, diversity and corporate culture shift within the Banking sector.

Ms Sweeney has been riding the EDI (Equality, Diversity & Inclusivity) gravy train for over 20 years. Wow. She’s covered some mileage, and was the woman appointed by our odious Anti-Business Secretary, Vince Cable MP, to report on how the ‘voluntary’ (that weasel word again!) code for executive search firms is progressing. The purpose of the code – established in response to a Davies Report recommendation – is to put pressure on executive search firms to drive up the proportion of women on the ‘long lists’ and ‘short lists’ they present to major corporate clients considering the recruitment of new executive and non-executive directors.

Six months ago, we publicly challenged Ms Sweeney with the following:

Charlotte, good afternoon. We have five longitudinal studies showing that when more women are appointed to major corporate boards, financial performance declines:

If you refute these studies, could you please outline why? And if you know of any reports or studies showing a causal link between increased female representation on boards and improved financial performance, could you please email me at with directions to them? Please don’t send me reports (e.g. McKinsey, Credit Suisse, Reuters…) which make it perfectly clear they’re reporting correlation, not causation, and that correlation neither proves nor even implies causation. Thank you.

A link to our blog piece with the background to the challenge of Charlotte Sweeney, to which (of course) we never received a substantive response:

Ms Sweeney’s report for the DBIS was published this afternoon. It has the snappy title, ‘Women on Boards: Voluntary Code for Executive Search Firms – Taking the Next Step’ and it’s downloadable through this link:

140304 Charlotte Sweeney’s Eomen on Boards report

The report’s content from beginning to end is mind-numbing and predictably packed with the Orwellian doublespeak employed by people engaged in social engineering exercises. To spare you the pain of reading the whole report, we’ve done so on your behalf. One thing we’re pleased to say is that C4MB has clearly impacted on the claims made in such reports. The only mention we could find of the fantasy that more women on boards leads to enhanced financial performance was this gem, at the start of the Introduction:

Gender parity on corporate boards continues to be a hugely debated issue both within the UK and the European Commission. The business case for gender parity on boards has been widely articulated and is clear.(3)

Reference (3) takes you to – honestly, we’re not making this up – The Davies Report!

What’s worth drawing from Ms Sweeney’s report? Well, it’s made clear the ‘more women on boards’ social engineering initiative will extend to the FTSE350 in time, and beyond 2015 – neither of which comes as the slightest surprise. But this is the first time the government’s objective of ‘parity’ on corporate boards – 50% women, 50% men – has been revealed in an official publication, to the best of our knowledge. Again, to be frank, we’re not surprised. It was long ago admitted to a parliamentary inquiry that the 25% goal for women on FTSE100 boards was ‘only a major milestone on a longer journey’.

Extracts from the report’s ‘Foreword’, signed by Vince Cable MP and Lord Davies:

We are entering the home straight. The actions taken by UK listed companies in 2014 will determine whether we succeed in achieving the target set by Lord Davies and his Steering Group to reach 25% of women on FTSE 100 boards by 2015. Women currently occupy 1 in 5 of all FTSE 100 board positions. The target is encouragingly close and equates to a net increase of around 50 more women on FTSE 100 boards. This is clearly achievable, so long as we take action now…

We would particularly like to thank the executive search firms that are already pushing hard on this agenda, who have played a crucial and significant role so far in improving the number of women on British boards. However, there is still more to do and we need to see consistent and concerted action from all 70 executive search firms signed up to the Code to ensure a successful outcome in 2015 and beyond.

The Executive Summary starts with:

The business case for increasing the number of women on corporate boards has been widely articulated and is clear. Since the launch of Lord Davies’s original report there has been a step change in the perception and commitment of gaining more diversity on FTSE 350 boards.

In January 2014 women accounted for 20.4% of corporate board members of FTSE 100 companies. This continued the positive trend and was up from 19% in 2013, 12.4% in 2010 and 9.4% in 2004. Although the pace of change has increased, and current trends suggest the target of 25% by 2015 set out by Lord Davies in his 2011 report will be achieved, we cannot be complacent and assume further progress will be made without further considered focus.

So there you have it. A Conservative-led coalition, with a male feminist Prime Minister and a socialist Business Secretary, is intent on destroying major British corporations on the altar of gender equality. Hopefully Cable and his socialist chums will have discovered a wealth-generating alternative to capitalism when the inevitable crash comes.

If we were investing our money, it wouldn’t be in the shares of FTSE350 companies. There’s only one way those shares can go in the medium to longer term, given the social engineering exercises assaulting these companies’ boardrooms, and that’s down. For those of you intent on holding FTSE350 shares, we can only hope the knowledge that half the directors of those failing companies are women will bring you some cold comfort. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you in good time.

Our public challenge of Laura Carstensen, EHRC Commissioner

It won’t surprise you that of the 10 Commissioners at the Equality & Human Rights Commission, eight are women. Gender equality is a fine thing:

The EHRC is going to look at the ‘under-representation’ of women on corporate boards later this year:

Commissioner Laura Carstensen is credited as the author of the following gem:

Research shows that diverse boards produce better performance and many companies recognise this. However, there is still much more to be done to improve the representation of women at board level. The aim of this project is to help companies do more to open up the field of board appointments which will help them achieve better results for their company by widening the talent pool. We look forward to working with BIS to shape the project to ensure it’s effective in tackling this issue.

We’re about to email a link to this piece to the EHRC, with the following public challenge to Ms Carstensen:

Your comments (above) clearly imply there’s a causal link between increasing the proportion of women on company boards, and enhanced financial performance. In the course of the past two years Campaign for Merit in Business has challenged dozens of organisations (including DBIS) and hundreds of individual proponents of ‘more women on boards’ to provide evidence for such a causal link, and no evidence has ever been forthcoming. This is a FOI request asking you to provide evidence of the causal link you’ve implied. Please don’t waste our time pointing us to reports and studies (e.g. McKinsey, Credit Suisse, Catalyst, Thomson Reuters) which show correlations but then make it clear those correlations aren’t evidence of causation and nor do they imply it. Thank you. You might like to read our briefing paper which has the Abstracts of five longitudinal studies showing that increasing female representation on boards leads to financial performance decline:

Our public challenge of Vince Cable, Business Secretary

Our attention was drawn this morning to a report on the BBC’s website about an idiotic move by Lloyd’s Bank (link below). If you own any of the bank’s shares, now is the time to sell them. The share price has fallen by 3% already today.

But we were particularly drawn to some truly nonsensical assertions at the end of the piece from Vince Cable, Business Secretary. This has prompted our new public challenge, in the form of a FoI request, seeking the ‘clear’ evidence to support his assertions:

140203 FoI request for Vince Cable

We shall, of course, be publishing the response. DBIS – along with other government departments – has never been able in the past to supply any evidence of a causal link between driving up the proportion of women in senior roles, and enhanced financial performance, and we confidently expect them not to supply any evidence now.

More American and British men and women prefer male bosses to female bosses

We know that when the proportion of women on corporate boards is increased financial performance can be expected to decline, but are there other outcomes which might partly compensate for this assault on meritocracy? For example, will the working environment become more pleasant and supportive for men, or women? Proponents of more women in the senior reaches of business often claim that women are more ‘consensual’ or ‘collaborative’ than men, or as I prefer to think of it, hopelessly indecisive.

What might one of these consensual geniuses do when a topic arises unexpectedly at a board meeting? Perhaps take a ‘comfort break’ during which she’ll attempt to forge a ‘consensus’ among whoever is around to ‘collaborate’ with at the time? So long as boards are happy with female directors taking two-hour-long comfort breaks, I see no problem. Of course board meetings could then last all week, but that’s surely a small price to pay to keep up the charade of often poorly qualified female directors appearing competent.

Our thanks to M for sending us links to two intriguing documents on employees’ preferences with respect to the genders of their bosses. The first is from the Gallup organisation in the United States, a report titled, ‘Americans Still Prefer a Male Boss’, which draws on a survey conducted in August 2013. Gallup has been asking questions in this area since 1953, 60 years ago. The report:

Intriguingly, a higher proportion of women (40%) than men (29%) prefer a male boss. Key findings from the study:


29% prefer a male boss

18% prefer a female boss

51% have no preference


40% prefer a male boss

27% prefer a female boss

32% have no preference

Young Americans showed the same preference for male bosses as older Americans. Also from the report:


Although four in 10 Americans do not have a preference for a male or a female boss, those who do would rather work for a man than a woman – as they have since Gallup began asking this question in 1953.

The minority of working Americans who have a female boss break even in their preferences for the gender of their boss, suggesting that if the percentage of Americans who work for a woman increases, so might the percentage who would rather work for a woman. However, young Americans’ preferences are in line with the average, which suggests that the aging of today’s workforce may not in and of itself produce changes in these attitudes in the years ahead.

The fact that even in 2013 women are more likely to prefer a male boss over a female boss will come as no surprise to anyone who’s read Steve Moxon’s The Woman Racket (2008). One of Moxon’s key theses is that men are innately comfortable with rules-based competition – one of the reasons why so many more men than women engage in competitive sports, or watch them – and with a male dominance hierarchy based upon power, or its modern proxy, money. The female dominance hierarchy, by contrast, is based upon youth and attractiveness, so women tend to be less comfortable than men with the male dominance hierarchy which remains the basis of the vast majority of commercially successful organisations.

Many times over the course of my 30+ year-long business career women complained to me about their treatment at the hands of female bosses who generally had a small ‘in group’ they favoured in numerous ways. The situation was made worse by women being promoted beyond their abilities, in an effort to get more women into the senior reaches of organisations. In my experience men were rarely promoted beyond their abilities in this way, but if they were, they soon realised they had a problem, admitted it, and a solution found. Women in the same situation would struggle on in an effort to save face, they could become unpleasant to deal with, and end up with depression, stress-related absences from work, substance abuse issues…

Crossing the pond, we turn to a short but interesting article in the Daily Telegraph, published in 2010, ‘Workers Prefer Male Bosses’:

From the article:

Two thirds of employees agree they would rather work for a man than a woman. Female bosses were accused of being moody and incapable of leaving their personal lives at home. A third of those polled claimed women in charge are ‘loose cannons’ – ready to stab colleagues in the back at any time, and who constantly feel threatened by other people in positions of authority. By contrast, both male and female workers believe male bosses were less likely to get involved in office politics, were easier to reason with and rarely suffered from mood swings.

Men are also said to be more straight-talking than women and rarely talk about others behind their backs, it emerged.

The article ends with the following:                       

Ten reasons why men are considered the best bosses

1. Straight talking

2. Less likely to get involved in office politics

3. Easier to reason with

4. Less likely to bitch about others

5. Less likely to suffer from mood swings

6. Able to leave their private life at home

7. No time of the month

8. More likely to share common interests

9. Don’t feel threatened if others are good at their jobs

10. More reasonable

Who could argue with any of the 10 reasons? So there we have it. When organisations drive up the proportion of bosses who are women, not only can they expect to see financial performance decline, but also a less happy workforce. It’s a lose/lose situation, engineered to keep a small number of privileged women in positions of power for which they’re poorly qualified. So why do the government, the business sector, employers’ organisations and professional bodies all relentlessly pursue this insane direction of travel? Things may have to get a lot worse before people in positions of influence come to their collective senses.

Our public challenges of Professor Susan Vinnicombe

I read a full-page article in yesterday’s Daily Mail with mounting disbelief. It was written by a young journalist, Ruth Sunderland, and it’s about the financial returns in 2013 of FTSE350 companies with female chief executives:

The article is the usual mix of celebrating women who are successes, whilst downplaying women who are failures. Of the four FTSE100 female CEOs, only one can be reasonably said to have delivered a strong performance in 2013 – Carolyn McCall of EasyJet. Let’s consider the three others:

Imperial Tobacco – shares down 8%.

Burberry – shares up 13%, very much in line with the FTSE100 average.

Royal Mail – shares up 78% but to quote Ms Sunderland, ‘The huge hike in the Royal Mail price owes far more to the fact that shares were woefully underpriced than to the acumen of Moya Greene.’

So, just one of the four female FTSE100 CEOs performed more strongly than the average male FTSE100 CEO in 2013. The article’s downplaying of female failure is breathtaking:

Cynthia Carroll left the top position at mining giant Anglo American earlier this year after disappointing investors and has been replaced by a man.

‘Disappointing investors’? They lost their shirts. In the course of Cynthia Carroll’s five-year tenure at Anglo American £9 BILLION was wiped off the company’s value. The following is a link to our piece on the matter, along with further information on the performances of other female CEOs:

Which brings us to Susan Vinnicombe of the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders. She’s long been the world’s leading academic advocate for more women on boards. In July 2012 she admitted to a House of Lords inquiry that she had no evidence of a causal link between increasing female representation on boards, and enhanced financial performance:

Her exact words:

 Thirdly, 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.

From the Daily Mail article:

Much as the feminist lobby might wish to claim a victory for woman-power, however, it is impossible to prove that female directors are likely to deliver better returns than men.

It is impossible to prove that, for one simple reason. The nearest we have to proof of the impact of increasing the proportion of female directors is five longitudinal studies, all of which show corporate financial decline resulting. Our short briefing paper with the studies’ full Abstracts:

Back to the article:

Professor Susan Vinnicombe of the Cranfield University School of Management, which compiles the annual Female FTSE Board Report, says: ‘It is very difficult to say that superior performance is due to a boss being a woman. But there is mounting research that suggests having women on the board is associated with stronger financial performance. This is not quite the same as saying women are the cause of the performance, but there is a strong correlation.’

We get so tired of this sort of tortured language:

‘… suggests having women on the board is associated with stronger financial performance’

‘This is not quite the same as saying women…’

IT’S NOT REMOTELY THE SAME. Most readers of the article will reasonably assume correlation is an indicator of causation, but all the reports and studies we’ve seen presenting correlations (McKinsey, Credit Suisse, Reuters Thomson, Catalyst…) say that not only is correlation not an indicator of causation, it shouldn’t be taken to even infer it.

It’s long overdue for us to publicly challenge Susan Vinnicombe. We’re making two challenges:

We challenge you to stop misleading people into believing correlations between increased female representation on boards and enhanced financial performance are, or may be, indicative of a beneficial gender effect, thereby justifying in some people’s minds (not ours) the government’s policy direction of pressuring companies to increase the number of women on their boards, through the threat of legislated gender quotas.

We challenge you to critique and discredit the five longitudinal studies which show that increasing female representation on corporate boards leads on average to corporate financial decline.

So why are there (on average) positive correlations between increasing female representation on boards, and enhanced financial performance? In our view it’s because strongly performing companies can better afford to indulge in some social engineering, and in some sectors where women make up the majority of customers (e.g. the retail sector) it’s also good PR. A gender analogy from outside the workplace – when rich men marry beautiful women, we don’t say the women caused the men to become rich, do we?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers