Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-54cdcc668b-fq9j9 Total loading time: 0.439 Render date: 2021-03-09T06:19:09.455Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true }

Achieving gender balance in the boardroom: is it time for legislative action in the UK?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Charlotte Villiers
Affiliation:
University of Bristol

Abstract

In the UK and across the globe, women struggle to get a place on the boards of large public companies and still take home less pay than their male counterparts. At a time of financial crisis and corporate governance failures, this lack of equality is considered especially problematic because the talents of half the workforce are not being utilised fully. This paper explores the possibility of introducing legislative gender quotas for company boardrooms in the UK. Such laws have been passed in Norway and Spain with dramatic results. Other countries, such as France and the Netherlands, look set to follow the examples of Norway and Spain. Has that time arrived in the UK?

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Society of Legal Scholars 2010

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.

References

1. H Coombs, E Gray and D Edmiston Representation of Women and Men in Business and Government – Public Attitudes and Perceptions (IPSOS MORI, March 2010), available at Government Equalities Office website http://www.equalities.gov.uk/pdf/100311_Report_representation_FINAL.pdf.

2. Financial Services Inquiry, Sex Discrimination and Gender Pay Gap Report of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (September 2009), available at http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/uploaded_files/financial_services_inquiry_report.pdf.

3. See, eg, B Masters ‘Female staff work to their strengths’Financial Times 13 May 2009 R Sutherland ‘This mess was made by men. Now let the women have their say’The Observer 1 February 2009.

4. See above n 2.

5. House of Commons Treasury Select Committee Women in the City Tenth Report of Session 2009–2010, HC 482, 22 March 2010, incorporating HC 967 i–ii of Session 2008–9, available at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmtreasy/482/482.pdf.

6. ‘Absence of women from top boards is unacceptable, says Gordon Brown’The Guardian 8 March 2010.

7. See DutchNews.nl ‘Female boardroom quota backed by MPs’, where Dutch MPs have supported plans to make at least 30% of top company executives female – the plan will require these proportions in both the management and supervisory boards of companies with more than 250 employees (26 October 2009), available at http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/print/019348.php

8. European Professional Women's Network French National Assembly Votes For Women on Boards (EPWN), available at http://www.europeanpwn.net/index.php?article_id=868.

9. Lewis, R and Rake, K OBE Breaking the Mould for Women Leaders: Could Boardroom Quotas Hold the Key? – A Fawcett Society Think Piece for the Gender Equality Forum (Fawcett Society, London, October 2008)Google Scholar, available at http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk.

10. See below.

11. See Office for National Statistics ‘Labour Market Statistics’Statistical Bulletin March 2010, available at http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/lmsuk0310.pdf. Note that of the men in employment, 13.465 million are employed full time and 1.887 million are employed part time and of the women, 7.691 million are employed full time and 5.819 are employed part time.

12. The Female FTSE Index Reports highlight the rate of progress; see the website available at http://www.som.cranfield.ac.uk/som/p1087/Research/Research-Centres/Centre-for-Women-Business-Leaders; see also The Equal Opportunities Commission Report, Sex and Power: Who Runs Britain? (2007), noting that it would take another 60 years to achieve parity on the current rates of change. The European Professional Women's Network describes progress as ‘glacially slow’: See Third Biannual BoardWomen Monitor 2008, available at http://www.europeanpwn.net/files/presentation_bwm_2008.pdf.

13. See further below discussing principles A.4 and A.4.6 of the Combined Code on Corporate Governance.

14. Experian Experian Female Directors Report 2007, The Changing Face of Britain's Boardrooms (December 2007), available at http://www.prweb.com/prfiles/2007/12/11/285158/THECHANGINGFACEOFBRITAINSBOARDROOMS.pdf

15. See Equality and Human Rights Commission Sex and Power Report 2008, available at http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/advice-and-guidance/here-for-everyone-here-for-business/working-better/sex-and-power/

16. With 21% women, the UK parliament compares badly with the German Bundestag, 33%, the Dutch parliament, 42%, and the world's most equal parliaments, Rwanda, 56%, and Sweden, 46%; see R Booth ‘Parliament's 2010 Intake Shows Swing towards Private Sector’The Guardian 10 May 2010.

17. L Jenner, L Mulligan-Ferry and R Soares, 2009 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Board Directors, available at http://www.catalyst.org/file/341/2009_fp500_core_report_final_021910.pdf. This figure is down from 16.9 % in 2008.

18. Catalyst US Women in Business (June 2009), available at http://www.catalyst.org/publication/132/us-women-in-business

19. Third Biannual BoardWomen Monitor 2008, above n 12.

20. See Egon Zehnder International Agender in the Boardroom (Australian Government, Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, 2008).Google Scholar

21. Branson, D No Seat at the Table: How Corporate Governance and Law Keep Women Out of the Boardroom (New York: NYU Press, 2007).Google Scholar See also LM Martin et al, who comment on the difficulty of finding information and data on gender diversity. This is because there are currently no requirements for companies to report on these issues and so the self-reporting is sparse: LM Martin et al ‘Boards of directors and gender diversity in UK companies’ (2008) Gender in Management: An International Journal 194. On lack of information and reporting problems see below.

22. Sixteenth Report of Session 2004–05, HC 300-1, 7 April 2005.

23. House of Commons: Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Committee Report Jobs for the Girls Two Years On, Second Report of Session 2007–08, HC 291.

24. Hillman, AJ, Shropshire, C and Cannella, AA Jr Organizational predictors of women on corporate boards’ (2007) 50 Academy of Management Journal 941.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

25. Sturm, S Second generation employment discrimination: a structural approach’ (2001) 101 Columbia Law Review 458 CrossRefGoogle Scholar at 469.

26. Ibid.

27. O'Connor, MA, ‘Women executives in gladiatorial corporate cultures: the behavioral dynamics of gender, ego, and power’ (2006) 65 Maryland Law Review 465 Google Scholar at 478.

28. Oakley, JG Gender-based barriers to senior management positions: understanding the scarcity of female Ceos’ (2000) 27 Journal of Business Ethics 321 CrossRefGoogle Scholar at 328.

29. Catalyst Inc Women ‘Take Care’, Men ‘Take Charge’: Stereotyping of U.S. Business Leaders Exposed (New York: Catalyst, 2005). M O'Connor cites a survey of chief financial officers in American corporations which found that 80% were men with stay-at-home wives; see O'Connor, MACorporate social responsibility for work/family balance’ (2005) 79 St John's Law Review 1193 Google Scholar at 1214, citing A Crittenden The Price of Motherhood: Why the Most Important Job in the World Is Still the Least Valued (2001) pp 17–18.

30. Weyer, B Twenty years later: explaining the persistence of the glass ceiling for women leaders’ (2007) 22 Women in Management Review 482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

31. Ibid.

32. Bielby, WT Minimizing workplace racial and gender bias’ (2000) 29 Contemporary Sociology 120 CrossRefGoogle Scholar at 123.

33. Ibid.

34. Higgs, D Review of the Role and Effectiveness of Non-Executive Directors (London: DTI, 2003)Google Scholar para 10.18.

35. Ibid, para 10.19.

36. See Heilman, M et al ‘Has anything changed? Current characterizations of men, women, and managers’ (1989) 74 Journal of Applied Psychology 935.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

37. Tyson, L The Tyson Report on the Recruitment and Development of Non-Executive Directors (London Business School, June 2003) p 6.Google Scholar

38. Sheridan, A and Milgate, G “She says, he says”: women's and men's views of the composition of boards’ (2003) 18 Women in Management Review 147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

39. Ragins, B R, Townsend, B, and Mattis, M Gender gap in the executive suite: Ceos and female executives report on breaking the glass ceiling’ (1998) 12 Academy of Management Executive 28.Google Scholar

40. Catalyst Inc Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners of the Fortune 500 (New York: Catalyst, 2002) p 2.Google Scholar

41. Equal Opportunities Commission Sex and Power: Who runs Britain? 2007 (London: Equal Opportunities Commission, 2007)Google Scholar; see also O'Connor, above n 27, citing M Steen ‘How soon will women gain more corporate directorships, and will it make a difference?’Fast Track 25 August 2004, available at http:/www.infoworld.com/cgi-bin/displayStat.nl?/pageone/news/features/fastrack/99ft.bo.

42. Catalyst Inc Women in US Corporate Leadership (New York: Catalyst, 2003) p 7.Google Scholar

43. Janiak, CM The “links” among golf, networking and women's professional advancement (2003) 8 Stanford Journal of Law, Business and Finance 317 Google Scholar at 324.

44. Fairfax, LM Clogs in the pipeline: the mixed data on women directors and continued barriers to their advancement’ (2006) 65 Maryland Law Review 579 Google Scholar at 601.

45. Singh, V and Vinnicombe, S Why so few women directors in top Uk boardrooms? Evidence and theoretical explanations’ (2004) 12 Corporate Governance 479 CrossRefGoogle Scholar at 485.

46. Schipani, CA et al ‘Pathways for women to obtain positions of organizational leadership: the significance of mentoring and networking’ (2009) 16 Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy 89 Google Scholar. See also Kram, KE, Mentoring at Work: Developmental Relationships in Organizational Life (Scott Foresman, 1985).Google Scholar

47. Ibid, at 100.

48. Ibid, at 100.

49. Ibid, at 100.

50. Ibid, at 102.

51. Ibid, at 115.

52. Ibid, at 135.

53. See Licht, AN The mother of all path dependencies: towards a cross-cultural theory of corporate governance systems’ (2001) 26 Delaware Journal of Corporate Law 147 Google Scholar at 170–180.

54. Catalyst Inc The Double-Bind Dilemma for Women in Leadership: Damned if You Do, Doomed if You Don't (New York: Catalyst, 2007).Google Scholar

55. See Schipani et al, above n 46, at107.

56. Catalyst Inc Women in US Corporate Leadership (New York: Catalyst, 2003) pp 1619.Google Scholar

57. Gilligan, C In a Different Voice (Boston: Harvard University Press, 1982).Google Scholar

58. O'Connor, above n 27.

59. Ibid.

60. Large, M and Saunders, MNK A decision-making model for analysing how the glass ceiling is maintained: unblocking equal promotion opportunities’ (1995) 7 The International Journal of Career Management 21 CrossRefGoogle Scholar at 22–23.

61. The Working Time Regulations 1998, SI 1998/1833 as amended by the Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2003, SI 2003/1684.

62. See O'Connor, above n 29.

63. Belcher, A Board diversity: can sex discrimination law help?’ (2005) 56 Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly 356.Google Scholar

64. Case 170/84 Bilka-Kaufhaus GmbH v Weber von Hartz[1986] ECR 1607.

65. Rosenblum, D Feminizing capital: the economic imperative for women's corporate leadership’ (2010) 7 Berkeley Business Law Journal Google Scholar (forthcoming).

66. Government Equalities Office Working towards Equality – Achieving Equality for Women and Men at Work Equal Opportunities Report (October 2009) p 3.

67. See Carracciolo di Torella, E New Labour, new dads: the impact of family friendly legislation on fathers’ (2007) 36 Industrial Law Journal 318 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; James, GThe Work and Families Act 2006: legislation to improve choice and flexibility’ (2007) 36 Industrial Law Journal 272 Google Scholar.

68. See, eg, Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions Equality Between Women and Men – 2009 SEC(2009) 165 COM/2009/0077 final.

69. See nn 78–80 and accompanying text.

70. See, eg, Catalyst Inc The Bottom Line: Connecting Corporate Performance and Gender Diversity (New York: Catalyst, 2004), available at http://www.catalyst.org/. Such evidence is not necessarily conclusive of a positive correlation between women on board and greater profits: see nn 80–82 and accompanying text below.

71. See Women to the Top The Business Case for Gender Diversity, available at http://www.women2top.net/uk/facts/tools/Business_Case_Gender_Equality.pdf.

72. Ibid.

73. Ibid.

74. Eg Catalyst, above n 70.

75. J Rosener ‘Women on corporate boards makes good business sense’Directorship, May, 2003, available at http://www.womensmedia.com/lead/87-women-on-corporate-boards-makes-good-business-sense.html

76. See Janis, IL Victims of Groupthink (Oxford: Houghton Miffin, 1972 Google Scholar) describing the symptoms of group think as a sense of invincibility, a belief in inherent morality of goals, collective rationalisation, the stereotyping of out groups, the appearance of unanimity, self-censorship, pressure on dissenters and self-appointed mind-guards. The preconditions for group think are a cohesive group, structural faults in decision making and situational context.

77. This requires a ‘critical mass’ to be established; see V W Kramer et al Critical Mass on Corporate Boards: Why Three or More Women Enhance Governance Wellesley Ctrs for Women, Working Paper Series (Report No WCW 11, 2006).

78. DJ Polden ‘Forty Years after Title VII: creating an atmosphere conducive to diversity in the corporate boardroom’ Santa Clara University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series No 06-08, University of Memphis School of Law, Vol 36(1), Fall 2005, available at SSRN http://ssrn.com/abstract=931203.

79. Tyson, above n 37, p 6, citing FJ Millikens and LL Martins ‘Searching for common threads: understanding the multiple effects of diversity in organisational groups (1996) 21 Academy of Management Review 402.

80. S Tacheva and M Huse Women Directors and Board Task Performance: Mediating and Moderating Effects of Board Working Style Draft of paper to be presented at the EURAM meeting 2006, available at http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:XRUU3HkRUGcJ:www.boeckler.de/pdf/v_2006_03_30_huse2_f5.pdf+Tacheva+and+Huse&cd=7&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk.

81. Adams, RB and Ferreira, D Women in the boardroom and their impact on governance and performance’ (2009) 94 Journal of Financial Economics 291 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; see also J Marinova, J Plantenga and C Remery Gender Diversity and Firm Performance: Evidence from Dutch and Danish Boardrooms Tjalling C Koopmans Research Institute, Discussion Paper Series (No 10-03, January 2010), available at http://www.uu.nl/SiteCollectionDocuments/REBO/REBO_USE/REBO_USE_OZZ/10-03.pdf.

82. KR Ahern and AK Dittmar The Changing of The Boards: The Value Effect of a Massive Exogenous Shock Working Paper, University of Michigan (2009). See D Ferreira ‘Board diversity’in R Anderson and HK Baker (eds) Corporate Governance: A Synthesis of Theory, Research, and Practice, (New York: John Wiley, 2010) ch 12.

83. It might also be the case that in these current times of financial recession firm performances will be reduced but not necessarily because of gender diversity. The figures might be difficult to interpret with any certainty under such conditions.

84. See, eg, Huse, M (ed) The Value Creating Board (Oxford: Routledge, 2009 CrossRefGoogle Scholar) several chapters.

85. Ryan, MK and Haslam, SA, ‘The glass cliff: evidence that women are over-represented in precarious leadership positions’ (2005) 16 British Journal of Management 81 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

86. See Art 2.

87. See Art 14.

88. See Directive 2006/54/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 July 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation (recast) [2006] OJ L204/23.

89. Brammer, S, Millington, A and Pavelin, S Gender and ethnic diversity among Uk corporate boards’ (2007) 15 Corporate Governance: An International Review 393 CrossRefGoogle Scholar at 395.

90. United Nations Development Fund for Women and UN Global Compact, Women's Empowerment Principles: Equality Means Business, available at http://www.unifem.org/attachments/stories/WomensEmpowermentPrinciples.pdf.

91. See, eg, A Hofman and T Hofman ‘Why are senior women so rare in finance?’Financial Times 21 May 2010.

92. Ibid.

93. Grosvold, J, Brammer, S and Rayton, B Board diversity in the United Kingdom and Norway: an exploratory analysis’ (2007) 16 Business Ethics: A European Review 344 CrossRefGoogle Scholar at 345.

94. Paragraph 10.12.

95. Above n 37.

96. Martin et al, above n 21.

97. K Grosser and J Moon Best Practice Reporting on Gender Equality in the UK: Data, Drivers and Reporting Choices ICCSR Research Paper Series (No 35, 2006), ISSN 1479-5124, p14, available at http://www.edf.org.uk/publications/KateGrosser.pdf.

98. IFF Research Research Report: Private Company Reporting of Workforce Diversity Data (July 2009), available at GEO website http://www.equalities.gov.uk

99. Higgs, above n 34, para 10.14.

100. House of Commons: Business and Enterprise Committee Jobs for the Girls: Two Years On: Government, Response to the Committee's Second Report of Session 2007–08 Fourth Special Report of Session 2007–08, HC 634, para 62; see Praesta, FTSE 100 Cross-Company Mentoring Programme, information available at http://www.praesta.co.uk/images/Praesta_FTSE-100-Mentoring-Programme_2009.pdf.

101. Lewis and Rake, above n 9.

102. Vinnicombe, S Call for More Women in the Boardroom (Cranfield, Spring 2009 Google Scholar), available at http://www.som.cranfield.ac.uk/som/dinamic-content/news/documents/mf_women.pdf.

103. Available at Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and at http://www.berr.gov.uk/whatwedo/businesslaw/corp-governance/better-boards/page17362.html.

104. Branson, above n 21.

105. Section 159.

106. New supporting principle B.2, see further the website available at http://www.frc.org.uk/corporate/reviewCombined.cfm.

107. D Walker A Review of Corporate Governance in UK Banks and Other Financial Industry Entities, Final Recommendations (HM Treasury, 26 November 2009), available at http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/walker_review_261109.pdf.

108. EPWN Quotas: For or Against?, available at http://www.europeanpwn.net/index.php?article_id=213; C Demailly EuropeanPWN (May 2005); Baldez, L The pros and cons of gender quota laws: what happens when you kick men out and let women in?’ (2006) 2(1) Politics and Gender 102 Google Scholar.

109. ‘Are quotas a good idea? the india experience with reserved seats for women’ (2006) 2(1) Politics and Gender 119.

110. Rosenblum, above n 65.

111. Konrad, AM, Kramer, V and Erkut, S The impact of three or more women on corporate boards’ (2008) 37 Organizational Dynamics 145 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

112. M Visser and A Gigante ‘Quotas: pros and cons’ in Women on Boards – Moving Mountains (Women@Work, No 8, EPWN, December 2007) p 86, available at http://www.europeanpwn.net/files/quotas_pros_and_cons.pdf.

113. Krook, ML Gender quotas, norms and politics’ (2006) 2 Politics and Gender 110 Google Scholar.

114. MF Bagues and B Esteve-Volart Can Gender Parity Break the Glass Ceiling? Evidence from a Repeated Randomized Experiment FEDEA Working Paper (2007-15).

115. C Toomey ‘Quotas for women on the board: do they work?’Sunday Times 8 June 2008.

116. Ministry of Children and Equality Representation of Both Sexes on Company Boards, available at http://www.regjeringen.no/en/dep/bld/Topics/Equality/rules-on-gender-representation-on-compan.html?id=416864

117. Ibid.

118. Ibid.

119. Ibid.

120. Center for Corporate Diversity releases new data: The Number of Women Board Directors in Norwegian Companies by June 1, 2007, available at http://www.corporatediversity.no/.

121. See further Toomey, above n 115; R Milne ‘Skirting the boards’Financial Times 14 June 2009; A Hole Government Action to Bring about Gender Balance, available at http://www.womenonboards.org.au/events/diversity2009/norway.htm.

122. Centre for Corporate Diversity Presentation of the Nordic 500 Corporate Boards (Oslo, March 2009).

123. Cranfield Female FTSE Board Report 2009 at 38.

124. On the possibility of relocation, see Becht, M, Enriques, L and Korom, V Centros and the cost of branching’ (2009) Journal of Corporate Law Studies 171 CrossRefGoogle Scholar; see Cranfield, ibid.

125. See further The Star Online, published Sunday 27 December 2009, available at http://biz.thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/12/27/business/20091227074452&sec=business.

126. CNMV Informe del Grupo special de Trabajo sobre Buen Gobierno de las Sociedades Cotizadas, Código Unificado de Buen Gobierno (19 May 2006). See also Carrasco Gallego, A and Laffarga Briones, J La Diversidad de género en el Códifo Unificado español y la práctica empresarial’ (2007) 4 Pecunia 1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

127. See I Casas Delgado ‘La Ley de Igualdad avanza muy tímidamente en las grandes empresas’Terra Noticias 8 March 2009, available at http://noticias.terra.es/Mundo/2009/0308/Actualidad/La-Ley-de-Ig and see also F Balaguer ‘La Ley de Igualdad no avanza en los consejos de administración’El Mundo 20 June 2009, available at http://www.elmundo.es/mundodinero/2009/06/03/economia/12440.

128. Cranfield, above n 123, at 40.

129. Ibid.

130. Ibid.

131. Ibid.

132. The Coalition: Our Programme for Government May 2010, p 18.

133. Lynne Featherstone's speech to the Fawcett Society, 28 May 2010, available at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/media-centre/speeches/L-Featherstone-Fawcett-Society

134. Although all three countries have met the Barcelona Target on childcare provision, it is acknowledged that private child care is expensive in the three countries; see J Plantenga and C Remery The Provision of Childcare Services: A Comparative Review of 30 European Countries (European Commission, 2009).

135. Moore, M The end of comply or explain in Uk corporate governance?’ (2009) 60 Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly 85 Google Scholar.

136. See Toomey, above n 115.

137. Ibid.

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 5 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 02nd January 2018 - 9th March 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Achieving gender balance in the boardroom: is it time for legislative action in the UK?
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Achieving gender balance in the boardroom: is it time for legislative action in the UK?
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Achieving gender balance in the boardroom: is it time for legislative action in the UK?
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response


Your details


Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *