Presenting the findings of a research paper on diversity in boardrooms, TCD professor Blanaid Clarke said there was considerable evidence to show that diversity in boardrooms resulted in better corporate performance.
However, she said that unless sufficient market incentives are in place for companies to change, they won’t do so. This can be seen in the case of Spain which introduced an equality law in 2007 requiring companies with 250 employees or more to develop gender equality plans with clear implications for female appointments to the board. However, because no dissuasive sanctions are in place the law is not really working there, Prof Clarke said.
She told the European Corporate Governance and Company Law Conference in Convention Centre Dublin that EU recommendations and charters on diversity in the boardroom had not worked.
She said the EU has found that the only tangible progress on the issue was in member states where there are legally binding obligations concerning the percentage of women on boards. This was seen in Norway, where just under 40 per cent of people on boards are women, significantly higher than the EU average of 13.7 per cent.
Former O2 chief Danuta Gray said the issue boiled down to whether the chief executive and chairperson want to make an actual difference regarding diversity, adding that quotas aren’t the best way to get women into the boardroom.
“Some companies just want to tick a box – tokenism – rather than having a genuine desire to make a difference in the boardroom,” she said. She was in the “soft law camp” when it came to the implementation of diversity in boardrooms, but said there should be naming and shaming of companies that don’t achieve targets.