European & International News

New research finds big gender divide in support for quotas among women and men board members

[Brussels, 14 September 2011] A new international study of serving board members has highlighted how women and men in leadership positions have a very different opinion of the role and importance of quotas to increase diversity and performance in private companies. While a majority of serving board members are reluctant to fully support enforced quotas, women are far more favourable towards such measures than men, and the majority of women find them effective. In addition, according to the director of the research, support among women for quotas is rising.

The research, conducted Heidrick & Struggles, the executive recruitment group, Women Corporate Directors, an organisation made up of women who serve on boards, and Boris Groysberg of the Harvard Business School, was based on survey responses from 721 male and female board members in 26 countries.

Some of the key figures cited in the Financial Times from the report include the following:

  • Just 13 per cent of men surveyed personally supported quotas; among women, the figure was 41 per cent.
  • While more than half of women (53 per cent) thought quotas were an effective way of increasing board diversity, just 18 per cent of men agreed.
  • More than half (55 per cent) of female directors say that three or more women on any board make it a more effective board. Yet only 16 per cent of male directors agree with this.
  • About three quarters – 76 per cent – of women also believe increased board diversity will be effective in rebuilding trust in boards. This compared with less than half – 42 per cent – of men surveyed.
  • About a third of women directors believe closed-off traditional networks are the main reason more women aren’t considered for director positions. Men, on the other hand, tend to believe that the fact there are fewer women currently in executive leadership roles creates a smaller talent pipeline for entrance into the board room.
  • About three quarters – 76 per cent – of women also believe increased board diversity will be effective in rebuilding trust in boards. This compared with less than half – 42 per cent – of men surveyed.

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