Quentin Letts’s exposure for Campaign for Merit in Business

Visitors to the blog of the Anti-Feminism League http://fightingfeminism.wordpress.com may recall that in March 2012 the writer, broadcaster and Daily Mail columnist Quentin Letts gave the League some welcome exposure:

http://fightingfeminism.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/the-estimable-quentin-letts/

I’m delighted to report that Mr Letts has given exposure to the Campaign for Merit in Business in his Mail column today:

The Harriet Harman-ite push for more women on company boards has suffered a setback – thanks, oh dear, to a member of the sisterhood. One of the main arguments heard in favour is that companies with female directors will make bigger profits.

However, Cranfield University’s Professor Susan Vinnicombe, appearing at a House of Lords inquiry into the idea, has now torpedoed that theory. ‘It does not make sense,’ she stated.

The Campaign for Merit in Business, which opposes feminist tokenism, is cock-a-hoop. But will Prof Vinnicombe’s admission stop Business Secretary Vince Cable interfering with the independence of firms that appoint directors on ability rather than gender?

A link to the column:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2183326/Cripes-A-Tory-Borises-Boris.html

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.

House of Lords select committe inquiry on ‘Women on Boards’: written evidence submitted

Regular visitors to this blog will be aware of the House of Lords inquiry. Herewith the latest update:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/lords-select/eu—internal-market-sub-committee-b/

Written submissions to the enquiry were published this afternoon:

120726 House of Lords sub-committee, written evidence submitted

Most of the written evidence is from the usual suspects, many of them professionally committed to ‘improving’ gender balance in the boardroom. Many of them refer to now discredited reports and ‘evidence’, and overall we have an example of ‘groupthink’ that takes some beating. Which is ironic, given that one of the arguments for more women on boards is to reduce groupthink… We’ve been in touch with most of these groups, and none has offered a shred of evidence of a positive causal relationship between more women on boards and enhanced corporate performance. Indeed, organisations and individuals with some integrity are publicly distancing themselves from the ridiculous claim.

There are submissions, however, offering a different perspective:

Campaign for Merit in Business: pages 47-49

Michael Klein: pages 106-111

Ray Russell: page 155

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

Professor Susan Vinnicombe, the world’s leading academic proponent of ‘more women on boards’, makes a remarkable admission to a House of Lords inquiry

Regular readers of this blog will need no introduction to two of the leading British proponents of ‘improved’ gender diversity in boardrooms, Professor Susan Vinnicombe and Dr Ruth Sealy, respectively Director and Deputy Director of the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders (‘CICWL’). Professor Vinnicombe founded CICWL in 1999, and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that these indefatigable ladies are leading lights in their movement globally. Who better, then, to stop the Campaign for Merit in Business in its tracks, by providing evidence for the long-claimed yet elusive causal link between ‘improved’ gender diversity in the boardroom, and enhanced corporate performance? Sadly, they have yet to provide such evidence to us. The reason has just become clear, and it is with particular interest that we have read the minutes of last Monday’s House of Lords sub-committee meeting on ‘Women on Boards’:

120716 House of Lords sub-committee meeting minutes

Much of the content will come as no surprise to people who follow this topic closely, and we may post a detailed critique of the report in the coming days. It seems to us from the minutes of the committee’s meetings that all 11 peers (three of them Conservatives) are supporters of ‘improved’ gender diversity in boardrooms, and all the witnesses questioned have been likewise. Indeed, many of the latter have been professional proponents of ‘improved’ gender diversity. Not a single dissenting voice has been heard. If this is democracy, I’m an aubergine. I’m reminded of the December 2010 CBI report, ‘Room at the Top’, whose 14 co-signatories included 9 women, along with five men who were already on record as being supporters of ‘improved’ gender diversity on boards.

The most interesting section of the minutes is possibly that between pages 4-7, questions 199-201. For the time being we’d just like to bring to your attention Professor Vinnicombe’s response to a question put by Lord Fearn, which I’ve reproduced below. I’ve indented the key sentences. Our thanks to Professor Vinnicombe for her integrity in making these statements. We can only hope that others (Vince Cable and Lord Davies come to mind) start to display more honesty in this area. But let’s not hold our breath, because they’d be admitting what we have long known – there is no financial case for improving gender diversity in the boardroom. And without a financial case, what is left? Nothing more than left-wing conspiracy theories, fantasies, lies, delusions and myths.

Lord Fearn: Is there a strong business case for improving the gender diversity of boards? If so, does it follow that there is also a strong business case for increased gender diversity on boards across the EU?

Professor Susan Vinnicombe: Yes. We believe that there is a very strong, compelling and comprehensive business case for gender diversity on boards, and it is a case which stands not only in the UK but across the EU and indeed globally. It sits on several broad platforms.

One is talent management. In all the developing countries of the world, 60% of the graduates are now women. We have a tremendous number of women coming in at graduate level to our big corporates. So the fact that we are seeing so few women at the top on our corporate boards is a sheer waste of talent. Talent management would be our first point concerning the business case.

Secondly, if corporates are to serve their markets well, it just makes sense that they need to be able to represent those markets. In many of the markets, women are the consumers, so it makes very good business sense to have women on the corporate boards of those companies.

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.

However, there are broader, non-financial performance indicators, such as corporate social responsibility, employee involvement, innovation, philanthropy and good communications, which have been seen to be connected to companies that have women on their boards.

Michael Klein’s response to the House of Lords ‘Call for Evidence’

My thanks to Michael Klein for agreeing to make available his response to the House of Lords ‘Call for Evidence’. I shall make my own response available next Tuesday, along with details of next Monday’s meeting of the HoL Sub-Committee, and in particular what was said by Susan Vinnicombe and Ruth Sealy of the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders.

The link to Michel Klein’s submission:

120713 Michael Klein’s response to the House of Lords ‘Call for Evidence’

Your invitation to the House of Lords next Monday, 16 July

At 4pm next Monday, 16 July, there will be a meeting of a House of Lords sub-committee reviewing ‘gender balance in the boardroom’, with respect to EU involvement in this area. I’ll be attending the meeting myself as a spectator, and I invite you to join me there (one supporter has already confirmed he’ll do so). If you can join us, please let me know by emailing me at mikebuchanan@hotmail.co.uk. The meeting will be in Committee Room 2, House of Lords, and is scheduled to finish at 6pm. Background information below:

http://www.parliament.uk/hleub

The meeting is open to the public, but the public isn’t permitted to make any points or to present questions. This is unfortunate given that the two most senior people at Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders, Professor Susan Vinnicombe and Dr Ruth Sealy, will be the ‘witnesses’ examined in the first hour of the meeting. There are a number of questions I’d like to ask them in such a forum, and hopefully I shall one day.

I urge you to respond as soon as possible to the committee’s ‘Call for Evidence’. The deadline for submissions has just passed (10 July) but I’ve been assured that they’ll accept late submissions for a short period. So get your response in TODAY! At the same time, why not take a rare opportunity (in your response) to table a question or questions you’d like the sub-committee to consider, or maybe to ask Prof.Vinnicombe and/or Dr Sealy? Details of how to respond to the ‘Call for Evidence’ are available through the link below. It took me maybe an hour to prepare a response on behalf of Campaign for Merit in Business. Don’t be put off by the questions which assume that gender diversity in the boardroom is intrinsically a ‘good’ thing (most of them do). Make your opinions known. Thank you.

http://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-committees/eu-sub-com-b/GenderImbalanceintheBoardroom/genderbalancecfe.pdf