Female entrepreneur blasts boardroom quotas


London-based entrepreneur and financial journalist Annie Shaw believes quotas are not necessarily the best way to boost the number of females in the boardroom.

The debate has been in the spotlight recently after Lord Davies told corporate Britain that 25 per cent of its board members must be female by 2015.

Shaw’s views come as a poll by Astbury Marsden revealed investment bankers and hedge fund stuff do not believe quotas should be introduced to ensure that the number of females appointed to high-powered executive positions.

With the added revelation only 10 per cent of City workers believe financial institutions currently do enough to attract and retain female employees, Shaw emphasised the importance of getting the right person for the job, but did however insist that females can bring a more measured approach to proceedings.

Shaw said: “I know a lot of people are in favour of quotas but I think you can end up with the wrong people if you try to tick boxes and get people who meet specific criteria, whether it’s race, sex, or religion.

“I do think there has been a lack of concentration and a lack of respect for attributes which are considered to be more feminine and cautious, and less of this testosterone-fuelled competitiveness which obviously led us astray in the last several years.”

Shaw, who set up free financial advice website CashQuestions.com, believes the environment in which financial companies operate needs to change before more females will be appointed to executive boards.

She said: “It’s not that the opportunities aren’t there, it’s that the atmosphere makes it unappealing for women to want to be in that environment.

“You see all these cases where women who have been sexually discriminated against and its is because of an atmosphere that is not conducive to having a feminine touch in it.”

Shaw went on to say that although she would like to see the number of female board members rise to 25 per cent by 2015 as demanded by Lord Davies, the importance of needing to hire females because they are the best available and not because they have to make up quotas has to be reiterated.

She added: “This means that a change of attitude [is needed]in looking for the attributes in women. I recently spoke to a woman from an ethnic minority who has several deputy directorships and she said ‘I know why I get them, it’s because I tick the boxes – I’m a woman and I’m from an ethnic minority’.

“There’s no suggestion whatsoever that she is not up to the job but it is a bit sad that people are looking at her sex and the colour of her skin rather than her attributes.”