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A very stupid idea about running UK companies

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.

17 comments to A very stupid idea about running UK companies

  • Alisa

    Will no one rid us of these turbulent politicians?

  • rogerh

    Have pity on the poor sod, all his levers-of-power have gone slack, Treasury reports ‘presses running at max – still can’t keep up’, Trade reports ‘There is none’.

    So a jolly to Sweden, a little shopping in a high street that is still open, a gentle ride home. Back at work to do – well nothing really. His tragedy is that pointless jollys and gabbing nothings are his future for the next five years – at least. Could be worse – Milliband.

  • Barry Sheridan

    Regrettably Mr Cameron really is hopeless, even for a socialist (after all that is what he is). Still as he has no real power, that belongs in Brussels, destroying the last remaining vestiges of industrial efficiency here is the only avenue left for him to feel he’s in charge.

  • MarkE

    I have sat on a couple of boards and am a big fan of “equality”. As a white, Angloa Saxon male I think I am safe in assuming I was there because I was considered the best man for the job (I can think of no reason to employ me to meet a quota anyway). I would like to think my fellow board members were also considered the best candidate for their respective roles and were thus my equals.

    The thought of being an employee of a company that was run by a group of people chosen by biological accident is not onyt offensive, but also scary; I work to support my family and therefore want to know my security is in the hands of the best people the company can find.

  • Laird

    I don’t disagree with anything in Johnathan’s post, although I am not as familiar with management of UK companies as I am with US ones. However, over on this side of the pond, nearly all listed companies have a few “token” women on their boards, many of them overlapping. (I guess there’s a shortage of capable female directors, or perhaps there is developing an “old girls network” where they refer each other for these posts.) In almost all cases their qualifications to serve on the boards of major companies seem questionable. Most seem to have experience only in academia, or as executives of non-profit organizations, neither of which seems (to me) to be particularly relevant. But to be fair, given the overall quality of Board of Directors oversight in US corporations, I rather doubt that adding a few lightly-qualified women would have any significant negative effect. It’s mostly a PR issue anyway. If something like this rule were to be enacted it would be merely another cost of being a public company, along with paying exorbitant sums to outside accountants and auditors, preparing turgid and unread securities filings, and holding the annual ritual of a meaningless shareholders meeting. In the end, it doesn’t really matter.

  • What Mr Cameron (and his fellow ministers, to say nothing of his political opponents) fail to acknowledge is that many, if not most, of the levers of power are not connected constructively: that is to anything outside of their imaginations.

    [And do note that “acknowledge” is different from “know”: with both subtle and unsubtle interpretations.]

    Best regards

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Dave can set the example himself! How many women are in his Party? And how many are in his cabinet? Come to that, how many coloured quadraplegic lesbians does Parliament have? The public wants to know!

  • Andrew Zalotocky

    Successful businesswomen who have earned a seat on the board will not want to be part of any gender quota. They will not want there to be any suggestion that they didn’t get appointed on merit alone.

    The main beneficiaries of any quota system will always be the people who are most willing to play the system, not the people who most deserve to benefit.

  • Mendicant

    Women who work make better mothers, by far. There’s no reason why a woman should not carry on working after childbirth. This also has the positive effect of making the children more independent and more creative.

    Stay at home mums are the creepy hermit types who obsessively control their kids and prevent them from having any friends. Having no life of their own, these “mum-otaku” seek to maintain permanent dominion over their offspring.

    The only reason many women stay at home to look at kids is sheer laziness and as a way to sponge off their partners.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    “The only reason many women stay at home to look at kids is sheer laziness and as a way to sponge off their partners.”

    Bad divorce, was it?

    Seriously, that is a fatheaded comment by you and I’m calling you out on it. If a couple get married and one spouse stays at home to look after the children, how is this “sponging” if it involves consent?

    If women choose to stay at home or not work full or even part-time, that does not make them “creepy”. My mother-in-law has raised three fine children into adulthood, she runs all kinds of organisations, cares for her elderly mother, etc. No doubt you think such people are “creepy”.

    Sorry to be rude but you’re a fucking idiot. Go back to fretting about Tube elevators or something.

  • Laird

    I’m coming to the conclusion that Mendicant is a troll who simply likes to toss in the occasional grenade. I don’t think he has ever made a comment here which was worth taking seriously. Or, probably, one in which he actually believes.

  • Alisa

    He did make an interesting comment on the Dickens thread, Laird.

    Bad divorce, was it?


  • Alisa

    I’m in a charitable mood:-)

  • The definitive refutation of this nonsense is, of course, the classic letter from T.J.Rodgers (then CEO of Cypress Semiconductor) to the “Director of Corporate Social Responsability” for The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia congregation. Here’s the full text for your enjoyment.

  • Paul Marks

    The present government sneers at Mrs (now Lady) Thatcher for the words “there is no such thing as society” (which they, like the rest of the elite, take out of context – and thus turn Mrs T.s meaning round 180 degrees), but it is actually them (Cameron and co) who have no fundemental grasp of what civil society is.

    The Sec of State of Culture, Media and Sport boasts of how he is going to (further) regulate newspapers – there should not even be such a department (did Britain not have a culture or sport before World War II?) let alone some silly Mr Hunt telling us that he is going to set up another “independent” government group of the “great and the good” (i.e. Guardian readers) to tell the newspapers what they may or may not write.

    And nor should Mr Cameron tell companies how many of their top managers should be women, or black, or have one leg.

    It is NONE OF HIS BUSINESS – he is chief minister of STATE, not the controller of civil society, for civil society HAS NO CONTROLLER.

    And now we are told that Mr Cameron is organizing a conference on “racism in football”.

    Mr C.

    Football is NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

    And whether people of different colour skin choose to associate with each other or not is also NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

    But, of course, Mr Cameron (and Mr Hunt and……) would not accept this.

    To them “society” is a collective entity (controlled by a central plan) – not individuals and families (i.e. the very concept that Mrs T. was attacking).

    In short, they have a totalitarian tendancy.

    I am not saying that they are setting up gas chambers – or even that they are quite as bad as their Labour party foes.

    But, at base, there is the same totalitarian assumption.

    Nothing outside the state – the basic (Mussolini) definition of totalitarianism.

    Nothing (from art to how much money banks lend out – and what interest rates shoud be) is outside the concern of our rulers.

    They are not civil society people as conservative thinkers (such as M.J. Oakeshott) understood the term.

    Sadly their education was based on what are (at bottom) totalitarian assumptions.

  • Paul Marks

    In case anyone thinks the above is too strong…..

    I would remind you that the totalitarianism-by-the-installment-plan of Cass “Nudge” Sunstein (servant of Comrade Barack and husband of S. Power – of the “world governance” “obligation to protect”, financially backed George Soros) was mentioned by Mr Cameron – and all ministers were told to read it.

    “Well there you are Paul – you are totally mistaken, in reality Mr Cameron is opposed to totaltarianism and wishes everyone to be on their guard against it”.

    Sadly there is a flaw in that line of argument….

    Mr Cameron made it clear that he thought that “Nudge” (with its treatment of ordinary human beings as “Homer Simpsons” – who need to be tricked and have our wires pulled by the hidden hand of the state) was a GOOD THING.

    A plan to be followed.