On February 2, 27 global investors were lauded at the London Stock Exchange for pledging allegiance to the 30% Club. You might wonder what exactly this club is, it is a group of companies that stands for that proportion of women on corporate boards globally.
The number of large corporates that have been joining this club has been expanding greatly, Blackrock and JP Morgan Asset Management are only two examples of renowned members. The last decade has shown a significant increase in the women on company boards, partly due to governments advocating for larger percentages of women in directing positions. For example, in 2008 Norway required listed companies to reserve at least 40% of director seats for women. Other European countries such as Belgium, France, and Italy began implementing such rules too, threatening with fines, dissolution, or banishments if they fail to comply. In every country these guidelines sparked mixed reactions, however most companies, even in countries with softer guidelines rushed to fill more board seats with women, in anticipation that these rules might be implemented in the future.
When reading the corresponding Economist article, my feelings were mixed. Is this really a victory for women when the former chief executive of Essilor, Xavier Fontanet, exclaims that women often lack the management experience that makes a good board director? It should not have to come to the point where governments have to set quotas on genders in board positions to enforce change in how our society thinks. Another objection to gender quotas was that the pool of qualified women is much smaller than the one for men, and therefore the same few women would be spread thinly between boards. According to the Economist, “a shortage of qualified women led to a surge of foreigners onto supervisory boards” in Germany. I really think this is a shame because women unquestionably have the same potential as men to obtain these positions, therefore it would be interesting to investigate the reasoning behind these shortcomings.
Having attended a networking event held by PGT Partners, a boutique investment bank based in New York, in autumn 2017, one thing that resonated with me was that it was extremely unusual seeing a financial institution, in which the majority of Partnership positions were held by women. I thought this was an extremely refreshing experience and felt that it was not motivated by gender quotas or external influences such as reputation, these women simply embodied the company’s mission and thus deserved these positions. I believe that the more women there are in senior management positions, the more likely the company is to carry out gender equality principles at lower positions in the hierarchy. In the long-term this might eliminate the need for the government to step in in the first place, which also backs the non-government related 30% Club initiative as a good yet necessary step forwards.
Women in Business_Bocconi Female Students Association