California is about to become the first state in the USA to put in place gender quotas in the boards of publicly traded firms. Under the bill, which was approved by the state senate on 30 August, initially companies will need to have at least one woman on their board by the end of next year and by 2021 this would rise to a minimum of 40%.
Here in Europe over a dozen countries have similar gender quotas in place. Some with the addition of sanctions if the company fails to comply, including fines; the threat of dissolution or being banned from paying directors. Other quotas are in place without any penalty should they be ignored.
Currently in the UK we do not have a requirement for gender quotas on company boards. Instead the Government has set some guidelines and companies may be named and shamed if they do not comply.
The difference in average hourly pay between men and women in the UK (the "gender pay gap") is a shocking 18.4%. There are many causes of the gender pay gap, one of which is the lack of female representation in the more senior, and well paid roles.
Although the gender pay gap is decreasing, this is happening at a snails pace and more action is needed to speed up this process. Is it time the UK Government took more action and put gender quotas in place or would this strict requirement be going a step too far?
If you have any questions about your obligations as an employer in relation to gender equality in the workplace please contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Does any of this affect how well companies do? Some “snapshot” studies show that companies with more women on their boards have better returns and are less likely to be beset by fraud or shareholder battles. But causation is hard to prove.