This is an astonishingly foolish idea by David Cameron, and I hope firms tell him to get lost. Forcing firms to set a quota on how many women can sit on boards may go over well with those who demand equality in some superficial way, but this is bound to cause concerns, as with any quota system set by the State, that merit will in some cases take second place to the Gods of gender equality. Apart from anything else, what the hell is the UK government – and one that has supposed to have “conservatives” in it, doing telling private firms how they should compose their management structure?
Alas, this is an administration that has been trying to fix the pay levels of private business, so it would be a natural, logical step for it to further interfere in business. Of course, David “the useless” Cameron knows all about running a business, doesn’t he? He’s had a rich experience in creating firms, running them and creating wealth. Forgive my sarcasm, but it is difficult not to take such a tone when contemplating such daftness.
Now, there may be reasons why women, for one reason or another, are under-represented on boardroom committees. It may have escaped Mr Cameron’s attention, but even in a complete free market without any distortions, women, given certain biological issues about, you know, having children, might be less willing or able, other things being equal, to get to the point where sitting on a boardroom was something they did to the same degree as men. Of course, there may also be prejudices to work against, but in a competitive marketplace, if firms are turning their backs on women out of bigotry, then more enlightened ones would surely get a clear competitive advantage by choosing people on merit, and if that means more women, all well and good. But to assume that unless half of all boardroom slots are filled by women that there has been conscious discrimination and this needs to be reversed by law, is absurd and oppressive. We have already seen the counterproductive effects of “affirmative action” (ie, discrimination) on racial grounds in the US over matters such as admission to university.
This government is proving, in some ways, to be even worse than the last one. No wonder that people now believe that we have one of the most anti-business governments for years, as is the view of Allister Heath at CityAM.