- Isabella Lenarduzzi

To quota or not to quota?

It seems the article in the Economist featured in my last editorial has created quite a storm. Some women feel that the celebrations and claims of We did it! are way too premature.

As Nicki Gilmour, CEO Evolved People Media LLC, points out, we are still far off equality in the workplace. She adds that the workplace is dominated by a 1950s form of hierarchy and patriarchy and only when this is changed can more talented women enter the ranks of the top jobs. Only then can we really start celebrating.

So how do companies change their corporate cultures to recruit and retain more women in top positions? Could they be helped along by means of gender quotas?

To quota or not to quota? That is surely now the question. It is a debate that has divided opinion worldwide, not least in Europe.

While Italy’s Prime Minister is resolute in not backing what he coins the “pink quota”, France favours gender quotas as a means of advancing women. On 20 January, the National Assembly voted on the first reading of legislation to mandate a 50/50 gender makeup of boards of all companies listed on the French stock exchange. If passed, it will mean that six years after the new law has entered into force the number of women in decision-making roles must reach 40%.

France follows in the steps of Norway that has already passed legislation on male/female quotas in those companies floated on the stock exchange (a minimum of 40% of women – or men). Spain, the Netherlands and other countries in Europe have also stated that they will follow suit in spring 2010 (the majority with the objective of having 30%).

In Belgium, back in November, Senator Sabine De Béthune (CD&V) stated that she wanted to legislate on the quotas of women (30%) in companies listed on the stock exchange. The Federal Minister for Employment immediately came out in support of the idea.

To quota or not to quota? This important debate will be a key topic at this year’s JUMP Forum.