Moves to artificially boost the number of women directors could be “demeaning”, the Institute of Directorshas warned.
Board appointments should always be based on the merit of the individual, and their likely contribution to the achievement of the organisation’s objectives, it claimed.
Speaking in response to the Department of Business’ consultation ‘Women On Boards: Call For Evidence’, John Phillips, West Midlands regional director, said the IoD was keen to see higher female participation at the top of major UK companies. However, it was opposed to gender quotas.
“They could prove demeaning for many aspiring and existing female directors and, far from increasing the legitimacy of boards, might actually undermine the credibility of women,” said Mr Phillips.
“Female directors could be tainted with the suspicion that they had been appointed in order to fulfil regulatory requirements, not on the basis of merit or ability.”
The IoD is also against the setting of a voluntary quota for female board participation at national level by the Government – or as a provision within the UK Corporate Governance Code – for fear it implied that companies were practising poor governance if they did not achieve the target.
Mr Phillips went on: “Instead of searching for ‘quick fix’ solutions, we need to promote more informal mentoring, nurturing and networking of female talent – both within companies and through external industry and official bodies – to better support female executives.
“According to Regional Observatory figures the West Midlands has the third highest level of female entrepreneurial activity in the UK. But we must not be complacent because there is a lot of work still to do. There remain instances of discrimination and we have got to be aware of that.
“It needs to start in the schools – encouraging girls to study business-related subjects and supporting their aspirations.
“There are no short cuts to greater gender diversity in the boardroom.”