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19 June 2009 by Virginia Bottomley
Norway’s experience of female company directors following the introduction of the 40% quota rule is instructive, but we should be wary of copying this approach in other markets (“Skirting the Boards,” June 15, 2009).
Aside from unintended consequences – has Norway really improved the quality of its boards if some women are directors of up to 12 companies? – a quota-driven system runs the risk of merely prolonging the current problem in a slightly different guise. Boards that restrict themselves to appointing directors from a narrow pool of candidates necessarily limit their own effectiveness, however that pool is defined. There’s no reason to think an “old girls club” will succeed any better than its male equivalent.
Boardroom diversity is a valuable goal, but it needs to be pursued by appointing directors with a broad mix of skills, backgrounds and experiences that can drive the business forward. Courage and persistence on the part of current boards and their nominations committees can achieve that; quotas never will.
Chair of Board Practice