Legislation only way for women to win the boardroom?

As zohra blogged last week, the pay gap between men and women is expanding, while only two of the top 100 biggest companies listed in the UK have female bosses.

Well, Ethical Investment Research Services has put out a report, which contains some very interesting insights. On the face of it, the UK should be doing well. Look at this chart, which shows that the UK can boast the highest percentage of companies that produce advanced policies on equal opportunities:

Over 50% of UK companies disclose enough information to qualify for advanced status, around twice the percentage of Swedish companies.

Yet look at this chart showing the percentage of board directors who are women:

The UK languishes far behind other countries, even those where the vast majority of companies manage to produce only “basic” equality policies. And here’s what the report says by way of explanation:

Norway is a leader because the

Norwegian government set a quota of 40% of women on the board by the end of 2007. Companies failing

to meet this requirement by end of 2007 are being threatened with being de-listed. In Norway, state-owned

companies are already obliged to comply and now have 45% female representation on their boards. The

number of women on the board is set to increase in Spain as the Spanish government has recently

established a quota similar to that imposed in Norway

In other words, voluntary policies on equal opportunities are pretty much ineffective – you need to force companies to change their ways. Which isn’t much of a surprise. After all, sending out a memo can only go so far in combating deeply ingrained assumptions that men will be better on the job than women. Isn’t it time that the government accepted that voluntary action is not working, and introduced a similar system?