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9 February 2012updated 22 Oct 2020 3:55pm

Cameron flirts with boardroom quotas

PM says he "won't rule out" legal targets for women in the boardroom.

By George Eaton

Whether it was an empty threat or not, it was intriguing to hear David Cameron say that he “won’t rule out” introducing quotas for women in the boardroom. The PM, who is currently attending the Nordic-Baltic summit in Sweden, said that a target of 30 per cent could be legally enforced “if we cannot get there by other means”.

It was Norway, of course, another attendee at the summit, that pioneered the solution of quotas, passing a law in 2003 requiring companies to allocate 40 per cent of all boardroom places to women (although non-publicly traded companies are exempt from the quota).

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The policy has since been adopted by the Netherlands and Spain, with a 2015 deadline for firms to comply. Even France, where positive discrimination is usually frowned upon by both left and right, passed a law in January 2011 mandating all large firms to reserve at least 40 per centof their boardroom positions for women in the next six years. More and more countries have come to the conclusion that quotas are the only way to smash the glass ceiling.

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As the graph above shows, the UK has much room for improvement. No wonder that even a Conservative Prime Minister is tempted by the option of quotas.