It has recently been announced that major banking institutions in the UK could be legally obliged to introduce quotas outlining the number of female members on their boards from next year. The quotas, however, have been greeted with equal degrees of optimism and criticism from diversity campaign groups. So whilst British banks could be the first businesses in the UK to have such equality measures imposed upon them, should the rest of British industry be welcoming or rejecting these quotas?
Women’s equality has come a long way since the days of the suffragettes. The number of female CEOs of major companies is increasing year on year and more women are being invited to join the boards of prominent companies – a prime example being the appointment of Sheryl Sandberg to the board of Facebook, one of the fastest growing and most important companies of recent times. Additionally, albeit slightly into the future, 2016 is hotly tipped to be the first time a woman, Hilary Clinton, is in serious contention for the Presidency of the United States.
Given these advances, you could argue that imposing quotas is a draconian and backwards step away from women’s equality. When promotions and hiring decisions need to satisfy a gender requirement, such quotas may actually diminish the true potential for promotions to be awarded on ability. If men lose out to female counterparts because they aren’t of the right gender, how is this any more equal? Worse still, such inequality can also undermine the authority of women in senior positions. How can employees be confident in the abilities of their female managers when they are given cause to wonder whether a woman received her job on the basis of a gender quota?
SilverDoor takes pride in its diversity. 10 out of the 22 members of senior management are women – all of whom are in their roles due to merit and not some gender tick box. Nevertheless we do try to maintain an element of balance. Marcus Angell, our Managing Director, says: “balance is important, it reflects real life”. Ultimately, however, it is about finding the best person for the job.
The quotas are an important step toward equality and diversity but are they the right step? If we start hiring and promoting our employees on the basis of gender what happens to the equality of ability? After all, isn’t ability the most equal measure we have?
Image: SilverDoor senior managers clockwise from bottom left: Caroline Saunders, Danielle Mahoney, Rafaela Baraldi, Claire Stephens, Joanna Cross, Sacha Griffiths.