Mandatory women

The trouble with this “comply or explain” strategy proposed by the Ontario government to increase the number of women on corporate boards is this: what exactly are you trying to comply with? The half-baked belief of some CEO? A board’s namby-pamby position? The unstated view of politicians or regulators? Catalyst statements? Which do you think will apply?

The other trouble with “comply or explain” is that we went through this with corporate governance fifteen years ago. As I recall there were fourteen aspects that public companies were to strive for … or explain why they weren’t getting there. What occurred was years of doing nothing except create additional pages of blather in annual reports that defended the indefensible. And that was just about guys doing things with other guys. But guys picking women to come sit in their midst? It won’t happen with any alacrity without a shove. There will be big bucks paid for bafflegab prose about the lack of qualified women holding back the selection.

The bottom line is that business is still sexist. The number of female partners in law and accounting firms has been stuck at 22 percent for years. Ditto with boardroom composition at 10 percent. And it ain’t going to change much until some politician or regulator has the guts to bring in quotas, despite the fact that they are disliked by all sides in the debate. I don’t like paying taxes, either, but I do. Equality in the boardroom should be just as compulsory.

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