The move to drop the “golden skirt” policy is a sign of ministers’ commitment to strip red tape from companies to get the economy moving.
Ministers said they were “standing up for British business” and were opposing the plans to impose more “burdensome regulation” on companies.
The European Commission launched a consultation in March proposing forcing companies by law to bring in the quotas.
The suggestion for quotas was praised by Prime Minister David Cameron at a summit in Stockholm in March.
However ministers will say the Government is not going to implement the quotas, and instead will merely encourage firms to hire more women in executive positions.
Figures show that nearly 16 per cent of senior positions are now held by women, up from 12.5 per cent last year. If the momentum continues, the number of women on boards will exceed 25 per cent by 2015.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary and Women’s minister, said: “We are encouraging firms to use women’s talents by helping them see the business benefits. But we must allow them to get on with their job.
“Our voluntary approach is reaping rewards. The past year has seen the biggest ever jump in the number of women on boards, and some of the UK's leading companies are now reporting on gender diversity, which will help more women rise to the top.”
Women now control more than half the spending power in the U.S. So why is venture capital—the engine that powers innovation—so cold to their ideas? A panel of women entrepreneurs addressed the problem at the summit.
“One of the biggest problems is that there are just no women in the rooms where the decisions are being made,” said Susan Lyne, CEO of Gilt Groupe. “It’s simple calculus," said Lyne, who formerly ran Martha Stewart's OmniLiving Media and is now readying Gilt, a flash sale intenet site, for an IPO. “If you have a room filled with men, the ideas they’re going to want to finance are the ideas that appeal to men.”
Candace Browning, head of global research for Bank of America, called such thinking “completely out of touch with the reality.” A report she recently released advised clients to invest in businesses that harness the purchasing power of the 30- to 39-year-old women and women in the 60-plus age bracket. “That is where the growth really is."
Amanda Steinberg, CEO of DailyWorth, a firm that aims to be a Kiplinger's for women, said she had raised $3 million to finance her efforts, $2 million of which came from women who had never before invested in a start-up.
THIS WINTER, Lego, the toy company that has inspired many an engineer, unveiled a line of blocks called Lego Friends, aimed specifically at girls. The bricks come in pastel colors, the figurines go to beauty shops, and the concept is straight out of market research. Lego executives say girls play differently from boys. They don’t want to build complex fighter jets like the ones on the cover of the Lego Star Wars boxes. They want to tell stories, instead.
I have no doubt that girls in focus groups were interested in putting little Lego flowers on little Lego treehouses. But that’s not the whole story; figuring out what girls want is a matter of asking the right questions. A year ago, when the Girl Scout Research Institute embarked on a study of girls, math, and science, researchers expected to find a Lego Friends sort of world: girls drawn to cute and pretty stuff, who didn’t aspire to careers in science. Instead, the study’s results, which are being released today, upend those old assumptions.
In other words, the trouble isn’t girl-themed toys, but what girl-themed toys ask girls to do. Salem State University professor Rebecca Hains, who studies girls and media, recently dug up a 1990s “Saturday Night Live’’ parody of a game called “Chess for Girls,’’ which showed girls cradling pink bishops and rooks as if they were baby dolls.
It reminded her of Lego Friends. Objections to the line have often focused on the gender stereotypes associated with pink blocks and Lego flowers. But whether girls want to play with pastels or pretty clothes is really beside the point. The real objection to Lego Friends is that the kits seem oversimplified. Storytelling has replaced problem-solving, instead of accompanying it.
If Lego really wants to get girls excited, maybe it should give them a tougher challenge, instead: a pink floral space-exploration kit that’s harder and more complex than the one the boys get. If you give girls problems to solve — whether or not they involve flowers or small animals — they’ll be inclined to solve them. As girls, and as adults.
U.K. companies may face quotas unless they promote more women to board level, Prime Minister David Cameron warned, saying businesses are “failing” the economy by not having enough females in senior positions.
From Business Week:
Appointing women as directors and encouraging them as entrepreneurs is “about quality, not just equality,” Cameron said at a meeting of the Northern Future Forum in Stockholm today.
“The case is overwhelming that companies are run better if we have men and women alongside each other,” Cameron said in a round-table discussion. “If we can’t get there in other ways I think we have to have quotas.”
The U.K. is working to implement the recommendations of a February 2011 report by Mervyn Davies on increasing the number of women on boards, it said in a submission to the meeting. As a result, women now make up 15 percent of directors of companies in the benchmark FTSE 100 Index, up from 12.5 percent last year, and there are now only 10 all-male boards in the FTSE, down from 21 last year.
Starting in October, as a result of a new provision in the U.K. corporate-governance code, companies will have to report on their policy for boardroom diversity and how they are making progress in delivering it.
Karen DeCrow examines the chain of events that prevents women from being recruited to corporate boards.
From the Post-Standard:
Perhaps the low number of women on boards — which operate far out of the sunshine — and the slow rate of change may be because it is assumed that board members should be experienced CEOs and chief financial officers. Not many women have held these positions.
It sounds like the Catch-22 that kept women from so many professions. Years ago, NASA had the requirement that, to be an astronaut, you had to have been a fighter pilot. But women had not been allowed to be fighter pilots.
What a provocative visit to NASA, what a runaround, a small group of us from the National Organization for Women had. It took forever to schedule. They were too busy with outer space to meet with us. Finally, the meeting was set in May 1974.
When we arrived, we were told that the administrator who was to meet with us had to fly away someplace. After coming to Houston from all over the country, we agreed to meet with someone else.
What did we demand? Affirmative action. The nervous official seemed convinced that we represented millions of women. NASA agreed to advertise for astronauts in publications directed especially to women.
Affirmative action worked.
Sally Ride, who would become the first American woman in space, was a graduate physicist at Berkeley when she read that NASA was seeking women for the space program.
Imagine a time with equal representation of ALL women on boards, at the CEO position and in the c-suite. There'd be no more talk of "breaking the glass ceiling." There would be no glass ceiling. Nor would there be talk of "being the first." The presence of strong female leaders would be the norm.
In 1965, affirmative action was established. It was amended in 1967 to ensure that women and minorities were provided opportunities to be considered for job placement. In theory, it served as the catalyst for creating opportunities. Unfortunately, not everyone was ready to meet the new employee requirements. As a result, even in the 21st century women are still struggling to find their place and voice in corporate America.
According to The Atlantic, in 2010, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. For every two men that got a college diploma last year, three women did the same. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that women now hold 51.4% of managerial and professional jobs -- up from 26.1% in 1980. They make up 54% of all accountants and hold about half of all banking and insurance jobs. About a third of America's physicians are now women, as are 45% of associates in law firms -- and both those percentages are rising quickly.
The pink elephant in the living room that isn't being talked about is this: White women have been the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action. So much so that their presence at mid- to senior-levels dramatically outpace women of color by 4 to 1. In Fortune 500 companies, 2010 numbers show that white women held 12.7% of board seats as compared to women of color holding 3% of the board seats.
Public colleges in New Hampshire are precluded from using affirmative-action preferences in hiring or admissions decisions under a new law that took effect on January 1 after being passed by the state's legislature last year with relatively little public opposition.
The measure prohibits New Hampshire's university system, community-college system, postsecondary education commission, and other state agencies from giving preferences in recruiting, hiring, promotion, or admission "based on race, sex, national origin, religion, or sexual orientation."
Both chambers of the state's legislature, which came to be dominated by conservative Republicans as a result of the 2010 elections, overwhelmingly passed the measure last spring. The measure went into law after Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, took no action on it.
In sharp contrast to other states that have experienced highly publicized battles over similar bills or ballot initiatives, New Hampshire passed its measure with little input from national advocacy groups on either side of the affirmative-action debate.
Fortune Magazine's annual Most Powerful Women list arrived on newsstands last week. With it comes inevitable chatter from the business press about who is in and who is out, who moved up a few notches and who has been knocked down a few pegs. And yet, perhaps what is most striking about the list is not the jockeying among the boldface names. Rather, it is the fact that even amid a lingering financial crisis that has highlighted poor governance and the scarcity of senior women at big corporations, the total number of women CEOs in the Fortune 500 is only 15, up from just two when the list debuted in 1998.
Indeed, at a time when women have gained more standing in politics and society, they have not made equal progress at the top of corporate America. Women comprise half of the workforce but hold only 16% of the board seats in Fortune 500 companies. More than 10% of those companies have no women serving on their boards.
In many countries, the numbers are even starker. Women hold approximately 12% of the seats on corporate boards in Germany, the United Kingdom and France. In China, women hold 8.5% of board seats; in India, that figure is 5.3%, and in Japan, only .9% of directors are women, according to data compiled by Catalyst, a nonprofit group seeking to expand opportunities for women in business.
Efforts to change this, however, have been under way for several years. Norway in 2003 passed a quota law requiring that by 2008, 40% of all board members at state-owned and publicly listed companies had to be women. Today, women represent 37.9% of corporate boards in Norway, according to the European Professional Women's Network. Other countries, including Spain and the Netherlands, have passed similar laws.
But while quotas accomplish one very big goal, they have unintended negative effects. For one, companies looking to appoint new board members end up choosing from a smaller talent pool. Because the pool is narrowed, the candidates are less experienced. Second, quotas could perversely perpetuate discrimination; companies might purposely appoint less competent women to the board as tokens, but not take their views seriously. Instead, rules that encourage companies to foster diversity on their boards -- rather than coerce them into all looking the same -- may be a better way to get more women in U.S. boardrooms, experts say.
William B. Harvey was the first person ever appointed to the position of vice president for diversity and equity at the University of Virginia, a job he held from 2005 to 2009. A recognized expert on diversity issues in higher education, Mr. Harvey is also founding president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. In an interview with The Chronicle, Mr. Harvey spoke about the barriers that still remain, what a chief diversity officer needs to succeed, and who should step up to make a difference.
Note: access to article requires a subscription to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
William B. Harvey was the first person ever appointed to the position of vice president for diversity and equity at the University of Virginia, a job he held from 2005 to 2009. A recognized expert on diversity issues in higher education, Mr. Harvey is also founding president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.
With more than three decades of higher-education experience, he recently joined North Carolina A&T University, where he serves as dean of the School of Education. In a conversation with The Chronicle, Mr. Harvey spoke about the barriers that still remain, what a chief diversity officer needs to succeed, and who should step up to make a difference.
"Walmart Launches Global Women's Economic Empowerment Initiative; Effort Includes Goal to Source $20 Billion from Women-Owned Businesses in the U.S." read the headline on Walmart's press release announcing a new "gender washing" initiative.
Well, ok, they didn't mention "gender washing." I made up the term to convey the same meaning "green washing" evokes when it's used to describe companies that try to look environmentally responsible -- while doing little or nothing to actually change themselves or improve the environment.
Still, $20 billion is a lot of money. Or is it? According to the New York Times, the $4 billion a year that Walmart will spend sourcing from women-owned U.S. businesses works out to a measly 5% of the company's annual operating expenses.