The Gender Diversity in the boardroom: reach for the top report from HR professional body CIPD has advised gender diversity quotas should be voluntary, despite proposals in Brussels calling for mandatory quotas.
According to the EU proposals, mandatory quotas should be introduced across the EU to achieve 40% gender representation of non-executive board members.
CIPD’s report outlines the advantages and disadvantages of mandatory and voluntary quotas and highlights how this aligns with current business attitudes.
In total, 60% of the report’s respondants believed mandatory quotas should not be implemented with 75% agreeing that the selection for senior posts should be based on merit.
Disadvantages of mandatory quotas
Feedback on mandatory quotas showcased there was a general attitude that implementing them could actually have a detrimental impact on the way in which women were perceived in the working environment. Instead of women being perceived as assets to the company, the mandatory nature of the quotas could lead to the perception female board members are hired on gender as opposed to their talents in the working environment.
Several respondents to the survey emphasised mandatory quotas have the potential to fail when addressing the real issues with regards to gender diversity and that, as an alternative solution to quotas, re-evaluating the selection criteria during recruitment would incentivise firms to hire women.
Questions were also raised with regards to the number of female candidates applying for positions and the impact this would have on companies if there were no suitably qualified female candidates to fill the role with one respondent saying:
It could be damaging for companies if they can not find the right female candidates and have to appoint unsuitable female employees to achieve the quota.
Another respondent said:
The setting of mandatory targets assumes there are enough women who are willing to take on the duties and liabilities of board membership to enable compliance. Until there can be certainty on this point, why mandate if 100% compliance is not achievable due to a lack of candidates.
Advantages of mandatory quotas
Despite this, implementing a mandatory quota can have beneficial consequences. More than 30% of respondents believed they would increase the rate at which gender diversity is achieved at board level and combat the cultural attitudes that – so far – have acted as barriers to entry for women in the workplace through mandatory quotas.
One respondent said: “There is a good deal of talent in the marketplace that has been held back by cultural and outdated ideas about what females can contribute at senior level.”
What can be done now?
While the CIPD conclude mandatory quotas are not essential, there are a number of strategies outlined in the report that will help improve gender diversity. These include:
- training for workers on gender diversity
- unbiased HR policies that are monitored and reviewed along with clear career paths
- mentoring opportunities for women.
Visit our Knowledge Bank to read key gender diversity reports and statistics.