Babes on Boards

posted December 3rd, 2012 by Janet Graham - One Comment

There has been much written about the issue of women on boards or to put it more bluntly the lack of progress in terms of increasing the numbers of women on boards. In case you missed Board Games, the Globe’s 11th Annual Corporate Governance Rankings in last Monday’s (November 26) paper, I have included several links below for your ease of reference, together with some brief introductory comments.


The first link is to a column by Janet McFarland titled Women’s Work with the subtitle: “From formal legal quotas to the power of moral suasion, companies grapple with a governance issue that has proven nettlesome — and for qualified women, frustrating. Diversity champions say there is more at stake than basic fairness.”


The second link is to another column by Janet McFarland titled Diversity with the subtitle “‘Comply or explain’ gains traction for getting women on boards.”


I have also included a link to a survey of how other countries are mandating the inclusion of women in corporate governance.


Finally, I have included a link to a round table discussion of the issue by a number of Canadian women and others. You can find it by following this link:


I read all of this last week and wanted to post about it but was at a loss in terms of what to say about it, other than what was in my mind obvious. I was rescued by Leah Eichler’s Women @ Work column this past weekend the title of which was: “Board equality: Plenty of talk, no action” and the subtitle of which read “Corporate Canada has talked at length about getting more women on boards, so why is it so hard to get something done?” You can find Leah’s column by following this link to her weekly newsletter.


I have thought about this issue for some time, particularly in the context of the number of women’s groups which have been established to conquer this issue over the past number of years. These groups have had little real impact, in my opinion because they do not have any real power to do anything about changing the situation other than applying moral suasion which the numbers would indicate has caused little to change.


In the end, I agree with Beatrix Dart, Associate Dean, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto who says during the round table discussion referenced above:  “Can there be any doubt that without public pressure – whether that means volunteer targets with public disclosure or legal quota – there will be very little progress moving the numbers of female directors on boards?”


I have come to agree with targets and/or quotas because I don’t think there will be any real change in the situation without them and I don’t believe it will mean we appoint unqualified women…I believe there are plenty of these ready and able to serve as directors!!


Again, Beatrix Dart says it well in the round table discussion referenced above: “Two of the main counter-arguments for quotas are 1. a token appointment of unqualified women, and 2. a reduced respect for experienced women. But I believe that is more than outbalanced by the fact that it is currently only the same network of board directors who is considered for board nomination, and the big fact that the percentage of women on board hasn’t moved. Although there are plenty of qualified women ready to go….”


The counter-arguments referenced by Ms Dart are often made by women and in my mind, they are arguing against themselves, unless they are one of the small number of women who are already serving on boards who are arguing against other women being appointed by virtue of targets or quotas because they believe it will degrade the quality (real or perceived) of women who have been appointed or are being appointed to boards. I don’t agree with women (and others) who make this argument against qualified women being appointed to boards by virtue of quotas. And I am embarrassed for all of the otherwise intelligent and capable individuals, men and women,  who are out there telling us to take a “wait and see” approach!!


We have been waiting a long time; the problem is we don’t like what we are seeing and we don’t think time will make the difference, so let’s try a different approach, one which other countries have been able to demonstrate yields positive results with little downside risk!! The quality of corporate governance depends on it and it is simply time to do what is right and fair!!


There I said it!! I am admitting I support quotas. I will survey the Babes on this issue and provide you with their responses.


In the meantime, I would love to hear what you think! Please provide your comments in the Comments section below.



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One Response to “Babes on Boards”

Comment from Linda Jean-Marie
Time December 3, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I started my career some 30+ years ago and sadly I don’t see much change in that time period. I’ve hit the glass ceiling so many times I have bruises. There are so many wonderful, capable women and even in institutuions that support women in management, very little is done to move them from the middle management roles to executive management and thus to board appointments. The only way I believe this can happen is for executive mentoring of women; but that is not happening either. So I agree, lets have quota’s, that will be the first change and hopefully a more natural change can follow from there. Women in executive roles should be finding the smart capable women in their institutions and bring them along for the ride.

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