Female representation is an issue plaguing not only the entrepreneurial world, but the higher tiers of many corporations as well. It’s a problem that we have observed in the past, during our intensive look into the issues facing women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
But the situation is not unique to the STEM world — in almost every industry, female representation drops off as one looks at roles of increasing importance at companies throughout the world.
The arguments for improving conditions for women are strong — studies show that the women not only bring more ethical solutions to the executive boards upon which they sit, but also, better results for the bottom line.
But how can true change happen? Proposed solutions range from nonprofit initiatives to implementing term limits. The “Women in Business: From Classroom to Boardroom” report, issued by GrantThorton, highlighted another route — one that is gaining in popularity outside of the United States.
They focused part of their study on the potential effects of quotas, which have the potential to level the playing field and create better opportunities for qualified women who want to continue climbing the corporate ladder without having to feel hindered by a boys’ club mentality.
Researchers involved in the study stated that “[t]he paucity of women on boards around the world suggest that quotas may need to be introduced to produce the ‘step change’ required to get women on equal footing with men in terms of access to the most senior positions in companies.”
European parliament agreed – and by a significant majority – when they voted to create quotas for the sake of increasing female involvement in boardrooms and political bodies alike.
They are not a perfect solution — of the qualms some have with quotas, the team involved in the GrantThorton study noted: “Quotas can be controversial and some women themselves have been hesitant to be seen in a tokenistic light rather than for their individual talent.”
Indeed, some experts are not altogether supportive of such measures conceptually — though they admittedly find little fault with them once applied.
“As a principle, I don’t like quotas,” Ider Kreutzer, the former chief executive of the insurance group Storebrand, was quoted as saying to the Financial Times by The Economist. “But I have not been able to find any big problems with the legislation in practice.”
As Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said at the World Economic Forum, quotas might just be the “unfortunate but necessary” solution we need.
Do you think quotas are a viable option for increasing female representation in the boardroom? Let us know in the comments!