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Gender diversity in the boardroom

Professor Dame Sandra DawsonCan the target set by Lord Davies to drive up the recruitment of female board members by 2015 be achieved?

The campaign to recruit more women to the boards of Britain’s leading companies is welcome but may have to be supplemented by a government-driven quota system.

Professor Dame Sandra Dawson of Cambridge Judge Business School, a Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, feels it is vital that boards should become more diverse.

“At the moment we tend to have more monochromatic boards. In that context I would like to see more women on boards and I would like to see people bringing different views and skills.”

She doubts that the 25 per cent target laid down by Lord Davies for FTSE 100 companies can be achieved by 2015 and reluctantly admits that a quota system might for a way forward.

Dame Dawson says she is not in favour of women being appointed just to meet a quota and questions why some important and very able women are not getting more board places.

She feels the way forward is to persuade chairmen to play a more active role in board-level appointments and ask the question ‘what will you bring that is different?’

“Then they will find that there will be more women not because all women see the world in a particular way, as opposed to men, but they come with different experiences and skills which will enable different perspectives to be represented.

“I’m personally not in favour of quotas but I can understand we need to get some movement and we need to encourage chairmen to think differently about the composition of their boards. If a quota has to be the way of doing that, then I will reluctantly say OK.

“I want to find some way of getting people to see the value of difference, and if a quota system turns out to be the only way then let’s try that.”