Whilst on holiday I was interested to read in the French papers that the minister for the rights of women, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, has just taken an outline law to parliament. It has a number of dimensions – parental leave, pension supplements, measures against violence against women – but particularly interesting for the Paula Principle is the intention to use quotas to boost the representation of women in the conseils d’administration of large companies and of public bodies such as sports federations, chambers of commerce and consultative bodies.
These councils are advisory rather than decision-making bodies, but can be influential. The minister proposes a quota of 40% of places to be taken by women , to be in place by 2017. Generally I’m not keen on quotas, preferring targets publicly adopted and rigorously monitored. This may be one of those cases where quotas are needed as an interim measure, to stir things up and improve the numbers of women with this kind of experience. (40% is the figure used in Norway for their board level representation – arguably a much more significant change in power distribution.) I’m particularly struck about the proposal covering sporting bodies. Anyone who doubts that this is needed has only to look at Muirfield this week. Sports bodies (national and international) strike me as generally quite far along on the spectrum of incompetence, reaction and even corruption; and it’s hardly a surprise that along with this most of them are very unbalanced in their gender composition. Examples of good practice anyone?