Female quotas 'negatively affect' business, says minister
Forcing companies to hire more top women would “negatively affect” the performance of businesses, a female minister has suggested.
Jo Swinson is the new employment minister
By Rowena Mason , Political Correspondent
3:38PM BST 17 Oct 2012
Jo Swinson, a new employment minister, said bringing in “quotas” forcing companies to reserve a certain number of board seats for women could lead firms to recruit poor quality female candidates.
Her comments come as Britain fights a draft proposal from Brussels to impose a 40 per cent female quota on boards of listed companies across the European Union.
Asked how quotas would affect the economy, Ms Swinson referred to a study indicating that “mandatory quotas to increase the number of women on corporate boards has negatively affected business performance”.
She said this may be because “quotas have led firms to recruit women board members that were less experienced than the existing directors”.
Ms Swinson, who was appointed to the business department in the re-shuffle, said the Government is committed to persuading businesses to hire top women without any legislation.
09 Feb 2012
In answer to a question in parliament, she said there is a “compelling economic case" for more women on boards if they are appointed voluntarily by companies.
Helen Grant, a new equalities minister, has also criticised the EU's moves to impose quotas.
“Enforced quotas hang over us and business like the Sword of Damocles and that worries me,” she said during the Conservative Party conference.
“That kind of positive discrimination can demean a woman’s real value ... and alienate men.”
Earlier this year, David Cameron said he would like to boost women on boards "preferably without having quotas" but said he would consider them "if we cannot get there by other means".
Despite refusing to rule out the idea, the UK has rounded up support from eight countries, including the Netherlands and Malta, to block any attempt by the European Union to bring in mandatory quotas.
In a letter to Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, the nine countries said: “We agree with the commission’s stance that there are still too few women on the boards of publicly listed companies.
“[But] we reiterate that any targeted measures in this area should be devised and implemented at national level. Therefore, we do not support the adoption of legally binding provisions for women on company boards at the European level.”
Since Lord Davies published a report on women in business last year, the number of female directors at Britain's biggest listed companies has increased from 12 per cent to 17 per cent.
His report led the Government to set a target of 25 per cent female board member representation by 2015.