Different positions on quotas: The Fawcett Society v The 30% club

I refer you again to the recent submissions of written evidence to the House of Lords sub-committee:

120726 House of Lords sub-committee, written evidence submitted

If you consider all the submissions, you’ll see that virtually all fall cleanly into one of three camps with respect to quotas designed to ‘improve’ gender balance in the boardroom:

ANTI QUOTAS

This is the position of Campaign for Merit in Business, because it seems to us that such quotas are unmeritocratic, their ideological foundation being left-wing and by definition counter to the legitimate interests of private business, and therefore discouraging wealth creation. Our submission is on pp 47-49, while other contributions in a similar vein are put by Michael Klein (pp 106-111) and Raymond Russell (p 155).

PRO QUOTAS

This is (predictably) the position of The Fawcett Society as well as others. The Fawcett Society has frequently been exposed as being cavalier in its use and manipulation of data in business-related areas, for example in its statements on the ‘gender pay gap’. We shouldn’t be too surprised then by their inferring causation from the McKinsey and Catalyst studies and reports, when all they show is correlation (if even that). Anyone familiar with The Fawcett Society will be only too aware it’s a misandrous organisation dedicated to relentlessly advantaging women and girls in general (and militant feminists in particular) at the expense of men and boys, so the nonsense they’ve submitted to the House of Lords committee (pp 67-73) is at least consistent with their ideology.

ANTI QUOTAS BUT PRO QUOTA THREATS 

This position is adopted by the 30% club among others to encourage companies to add more women to their boards ‘voluntarily’. It’s the government’s official position, stated regularly by both the prime minister and Vince Cable, the business secretary. In our view, this position is utterly indefensible. If quotas are wrong, how can the threat of them be right? It’s the same position taken by the mugger who, when addressing his victim, says, ‘I’m against physical violence, but I’m prepared to use it if you don’t hand over your money voluntarily’.

The submission of the 30% club (pp 173-8) has some figures for the proportion of newly appointed non-executive directors who are female:

2010: 13%

2011: 30%

2012 (March to date): 44%

Could it be any clearer? FTSE100 companies are taking on token women in the least risky manner possible – as non-executive directors – in direct response to the threat of quotas. Organisations including the 30% club applaud the increase in numbers, and infer these women are being appointed on the grounds of merit, when most of them are clearly not.

With the London Olympics officially starting today, let me offer a sporting analogy. Let’s include women in the 100 metre men’s event, but with a 25 metre start over the male sprinters, accepted by the men on the grounds that otherwise they’d have 3 seconds added to their times. Would that be a triumph for female athletes? No. And nor is the increase in the number of female directors under the threat of quotas.

Finally, permit me to make a prediction. The business sector will start fighting back against this ideologically-inspired initiative, and soon.

Have a good weekend.

Helena Morrissey appears before a House of Lords select committee

Helena Morrissey, founder of the 30 per cent club, today appeared before the House of Lords select committee investigating ‘Women on Boards’. The following is a link to the video, the first hour of which is devoted to Mrs Morrissey. Enjoy:

http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=11283

When the minutes are published – later this week – we’ll post them along with a detailed critique of what Mrs Morrissey had to say. One of her more interesting statements in the meeting was the following:

‘I haven’t seen any evidence that suggests having more women on boards undermines shareholder value.’

Why is this interesting? Only last Wednesday I emailed Mrs Morrissey the following invitation to the IEA event, and this wasn’t the first time she’d been made aware of our arguments. The invitation included precisely the evidence which Mrs Morrissey claimed in today’s meeting not to have seen. Ironically, she referred to the study in question later in her testimony to the House of Lords today. It’s the Ahern & Dittmar (University of Michigan) study on the negative impact of gender quotas on Norwegian companies.

My invitation to Mrs Morrissey:

120718 invitation emailed to Helena Morrissey

My IEA blog cited both the University of Michigan study and another showing the negative impact of ‘improving’ gender diversity on boards, reported by Deutsche Bundesbank:

http://www.iea.org.uk/blog/the-gender-diversity-delusion