Gender quotas in Britain

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
March 12, 2011, 12:23 AM GMT+0

Almost half of Brits (45%) disagree with the idea of introducing female quotas on the boards of London Stock Exchange companies, our poll has found.

  • 45% do not support quotas to get more women onto the boards of large financial companies
  • 30% agree with gender quotas, while a further 25% aren’t sure either way
  • 57% of men think that having minimum quotas of women on London Stock Exchange companies isn’t a good idea (21% support quotas)
  • Compared to a third (33%) of women who oppose the measures (and 38% who support the idea)

The issue of gender quotas has been a subject for renewed discussion in the past few weeks, as a Government inquiry into male boardroom dominance has recommended that FTSE 100 companies aim for a 25% female boardroom presence by 2015. The report stopped short of advising in favour of compulsory quotas, however.

Best woman for the job?

Lord Davies, who led the review, spoke for change ‘to ensure that more talented and gifted women can get into the top jobs in companies across the UK’ but, he insisted that far from being a simple ‘numbers game’, there was evidence that companies who had female board members were more profitable. Norway is an example of a country in which gender quotas have seen by some as a ‘tentative success’ in getting more women into previously male-dominated leadership positions. ‘Boards cannot afford to use only half of the population's brain power’, argued then minister for business Ansgar Gabrielsen when the quotas were introduced in 2003.

However, the chairwoman of enforcement service firm Rossendales, Julie Green-Jones, has been among those criticising the proposal for gender quotas, saying that appointments ‘should be [of] the best person for the job regardless of their gender’. There is also concern that getting companies to put more women on the board will create resentment and lead to a situation where the female director’s colleagues, and perhaps the women herself, will question her actual ability and suitability for the role. ‘I personally would feel very uncomfortable if I was in the boardroom [just] because I was a woman,’ Green-Jones added.

See the survey details and full results