Russia, which can hardly be confused for a tolerant society, has women filling 43% of senior management jobs in the country. It seems the former Soviet Union was very progressive when it came to promoting women through the ranks. Equally impressive statistics are found in many of the neighboring Baltic States that were once under its influence. Even China, which often gets a bad rap for civil rights abuses, is doing more for the career advancement of women than in the United States. Women in BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) represent 30% of senior management positions, eight percentage points higher than in the U.S. In a word — pathetic.
So, are quotas the answer to get more female CEOs?
If you’re going to have quotas, I think they’ve got to be instituted all the way along the corporate ladder from top to bottom. You constantly need to be replenishing the talent pool. That way, if women choose to take leave to have and raise children, there are plenty of candidates to fill the void while they’re away. And you’re ensuring that women are getting opportunities throughout the company — not just at certain levels.
But you can’t just have quotas. Companies must do everything in their power to ensure a work-life balance that allows women to succeed in their jobs while also managing their family. Google’s (GOOG) great at providing all the perks necessary so employees can stay at work longer, but if they don’t engage their people in a meaningful way eventually those employees — female or male — are going to check out.
To me, this issue is so simple.
Companies that have more women on their boards deliver better results. So, if you’re an investor in a company that has no women on its board, wouldn’t you want to nominate a few qualified candidates that just happen to be female? Even if it’s for the sole reason that this leads to more money in your pocket down the road? If you believe in capitalism, it follows that you should support a more balanced playing field where female CEOs are commonplace because it’s in your best economic interest.
Women aren’t asking for special treatment; they simply want equal treatment — whether it’s the number of women serving on boards, the percentage of female CEOs in the Fortune 1000 or the number of entry-level jobs up for grabs. And while we’re at it, let’s not forget similar pay for similar work. Representation by population extends beyond politics and into corporate America.
At the end of the day, quotas aren’t necessarily the best solution … but if men won’t make the appropriate changes on their own, perhaps government intervention is the swiftest way to give women better opportunities in the workplace and help companies deliver better value to investors.
As of this writing, Will Ashworth did not own a position in any of the aforementioned securities.