Chamber of Commerce against quotas for more women on company boards

Tancred Tabone: “Mandatory quotas would force entrepreneurs to get side-tracked from making right decisions in the interest of their companies”.

Chamber president Tancred Tabone said mandatory quotas for women on boards would not be based on merit.
Chamber president Tancred Tabone said mandatory quotas for women on boards would not be based on merit.

Chamber president Tancred Tabone has told the EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding that quotas to have more women on company boardrooms are not the solution to improve the gender balance inside private companies.

Yesterday Reding met with European Industry Associations, European Business Schools and Senior Executive Women to discuss progress being made on improving the gender balance in company boardrooms.

Despite around 60% of university graduates being female, women still represent only 14% of board members in Europe's biggest listed companies and only 3% of board presidents.

"I do not accept the argument that there aren't enough qualified women to fill supervisory boards - you just need to look at the list of 7,000 'board ready' women that European Business schools published a few months ago to see that there are," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "The pool of talent is there - companies should now make use of it."

Chamber of Commerce president Tancred Tabone, on his part, said the chamber recognised the importance of the contribution of women in the business world and the need to incorporate more women in the labour force.

"However, the Malta Chamber believes that quotas are not the solution to improving the gender balance in boardrooms. Imposing a one-size-fits all scenario on Europe as a whole may not apply to Malta as it does in northern European member states. This is due to cultural issues as well as the availability of support structures for professional mothers," Tabone said.

The Chamber president also said mandatory quotas would force entrepreneurs to get sidetracked from making "the right decisions in the interest of their companies".

"With quotas taking precedence over skills and competencies, female candidates may be given jobs on the basis of gender rather than academic qualifications and merit. This is also counterproductive for women's long term career progression," Tabone said.

In September 2011, the European Business Schools and Senior Executive Women launched a call to action to shatter the glass ceilings which impede senior women executives from acceding to corporate boardroom seats throughout Europe. Their ever growing list of "Board Ready Women" - up to 7,000 today from 3,500 in March 2012 - makes it clear that there are more than enough eminently qualified women to help lead Europe's and the world's corporations into the 21st century and that it is now time to shatter the ceiling that has kept these women from ascending to these board of directors positions.

Reding says that both female and male skills are required to face the challenges of an ageing population, and that incorporating more women in the workforce would improve Europe's competitiveness.

But the Chamber president insisted that merit, experience and achievement should be the most important qualifications for any post and most definitely not gender. "Rather than quotas, there is more merit in diversity and in a more holistic approach - at least as far as Malta is concerned."

"This approach will aim to raise the number of women in the workplace at the decision-making level, whilst offering full support for them to do so. More measures must be sought to encourage women to retain their employment and a balance between work and family commitments should be encouraged and the appropriate structure made easily available.

In a recent Europe-wide opinion poll, 88% of people said that, given the same qualifications and skills, women should be equally represented in top business jobs and 75% said they were in avour of legislative measures to enforce this.

Reding met chief executives and chairs of boards of publicly listed companies in March 2011 to discuss the under-representation of women on corporate boards. She challenged all publicly listed companies in Europe to sign up to the "Women on the Board Pledge for Europe" and commit voluntarily to increasing women's participation on corporate boards to 30% by 2015 and to 40% by 2020.

A year later, only 24 companies had signed the pledge, prompting the European Commission to launch a three-month long public consultation that closed at the end of May, seeking the opinion of citizens and stakeholders.

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