Mortgage industry women don’t want quotas

Sarah Davidson

October 31, 2012

Their comments come after the European Commission decided to scrap its proposed legislation to force publically listed companies to have 40% of their boards represented by women.

Sally Laker, managing director of Mortgage Intelligence, said she is keen for women to hold senior positions in industry but they should achieve this based on their own merits.

She said: “I don’t think someone should be put on a board just because they are a woman if they are not able to add any value or don’t have the required knowledge for that position.

“Women do not want to be appointed to a board as the token woman because of some statistics.”

Laker preferred the approach taken by Helena Morrissey, chief executive officer of the 30% Club, who founded a club of chairmen and women who want better gender balance by motivating and supporting chairmen to appoint more women.

The club also works with executive search companies to raise the issue among the recruitment indusry.

Alison Beech, director of Spicerhaart, agreed that women should make it to the top positions on their own talents but appreciated that support for female professionals was necessary.

She said: “Recruitment partners whether internal or external have a big role to play here and I think one thing firms could do to improve the chances of a female appointment is to make sure that the recruitment firms or in house teams they use put a diverse range of candidates in front of the hiring managers.”

Beech described an example which she had read recently which she could identify with.

She said: “If a manager is faced with a male candidate he is unsure about he may say let’s chuck him in at the deep end and see if he sinks or swims whereas that manager may look at the female candidate and ask if she’s ready yet.”

Beech said potential candidates should be treated the same although she does not think that men are being deliberately discriminatory.

She added: “It’s up to all of us to challenge that and also to make sure we help ourselves. Building networks, having confidence in our own abilities and supporting young women in our own workplaces to make sure they have the skills and aptitudes needed to succeed will help drive the change.”

Tracey Bailey, director and head of regulated underwriting at Blemain Group, supported giving women help to secure top positions in industry but said quotas were not the way.

She said: “Women are unrepresented on boards and that is a problem but if I am absolutely honest I think quotas are discriminatory and I believe that if a woman is good enough to do the job then she should get there on her own.

“But this does need outside encouragement as boards are male dominated.”

Women were not alone in voicing their opinions of fairer representation on boards.

The members of the 30% Club are predominately men who want to improve diversity by raising the profile of the issue, stimulating debate and influencing policital agenda.

Nigel Stockton, financial servives director at Countrywide, agreed that prejudice exists against women gaining positions in the boardroom.

He said: “Having previously worked for Dame Marjorie Scardino when she was CEO of Pearson, it is clear that if you are good enough, then you absolutely will rise to the very top. However, they are few and far between as too many obstacles are put in the way of women reaching the very top directorships – but regulatory intervention rarely achieves the sought aim.”

Beech agreed that if change is driven by regulation it would not produce positive outcomes.

She said: “But we should perhaps remember that if we don’t do it the legislators will. And that path would I fear lead to resentment and be detrimental and distracting to corporate success.”

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