I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to keep up to date with the latest debate on the policy introduced by European Commissioner, Viviane Reding, regarding the introduction of company board quotas to increase the number of female board members. Here you can see the contents of the debate moderated by journalist, Montse Jené, in which I took part along with Anna Mercader from the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce. I look forward to receiving any feedback you might have.
I’d like to take advantage of this post to share some of my thoughts on the subject. And I’ll begin by reaffirming the urgent need for women to take a larger and more decisive role in leadership and responsibility within organisations. We need to take this challenge on board. True, we’re making headway in this respect, but it’s still too slow; and any progress that is made is thanks to the individual merit of those women (and men) who believe in diversity within their firms.
But while I reaffirm this need, I want to share my concerns about the uncertain effectiveness of imposing a quota for women by obligation, by decree, by order of the European Commission. It’s true that a male culture still prevails in some companies. But, I don’t consider legally forcing women onto boards of directors to be an effective approach to the matter, when the key lies in getting diversity at management levels of the company, where the real decisions are taken.
I was the only woman in my class when I was studying at ESADE. Fortunately, today’s reality has changed a lot: Nowadays, female students are in the majority on our undergraduate degree programmes. I regularly talk to them and I can see in their eyes a healthy ambition to triumph in the splendid professional future that lies ahead of them.
And when I think about their future, I confirm the pressing need for our society to help them believe in themselves. To recognise that they too can and should have the opportunity to believe in and progress in their own professional future. They should not doubt themselves when they have to grit their teeth and take firm steps in their career. They should not have to give up on rising through the ranks of their respective professions because it’s impossible to reconcile their profession with their personal and family life. It cannot be that many women, of an age in which they are reaching the peak of their professional careers, don’t have the same management development opportunities that would allow them, to a large extent, to gain access to real management positions. Quite simply, our society cannot afford to take this attitude.
Could the introduction of a quota policy for company boards help to reverse this situation? It might. But it’s not the only solution.
And how can we get women into management positions where the day-to-day business decisions are made? Some organisations have already done this. They are the ones with a new, more flexible and revamped ecosystem; the ones that effectively implement codes of good governance; the ones that have a more balanced schedule with specific programmes and career development for women.
In other words, if we include more women on boards of directors just to comply with the law – but don’t actually give them any real management responsibilities – all we’ll really be creating is ‘quota women’. And I, like many others, don’t want to be a ‘quota woman’.