It’s an issue we’ve seen for generations now. The women vs. men ratio in executive and board-type positions is staggeringly disproportionate. In an effort to ease the gap, California Senate Bill 826 requires public companies to have a certain percentage of women on their board of directors by the end of 2019. Is this a progressive attempt at evening the gap between men and women? Or is it just a band-aid, not resolving a deeper issue? On the first episode of Recruiter Fuel: Season 5, Steve sits down with Nancy and Dana—two women at different points in their careers-- to discuss the many facets of the situation and the possible implications of the law.
Though Dana is only at the beginning of her career, Nancy is soon retiring, and so their different perspectives played a role in their responses. Dana began on a frank note saying that she doesn’t think the law totally addresses the problem stating, “you’re not actually fixing the problem.” She also noted that much of the backlash also could be from people who think it forces companies in a corner. “You shouldn’t be scrambling to find female leadership… in the first place.” In her view, the new law is a, “band-aid” for a larger problem.
Nancy responded by making note of the different perspectives and insights women bring to groups, but also that, “mandating a law like this and making it subject to financial penalties” wasn’t the way to go about it. Recognizing the challenge women face getting to the top, Nancy said that she’d like to see the number of women on corporate boards increase naturally as equality is gained. Steve interjected with the statistic that women only make up twenty percent of board seats on the S&P 500, and Dana and Nancy responded unsurprised. “Is that enough, no… women have a lot to contribute but I don’t think this is the way to go about it.”
“Women now are demanding to have the same say,” Dana began. “It shouldn’t be mandatory to have women on. We have the same intellectual capability as men, there shouldn’t be this issue anyways for us.” Going on to describe that the culture shift that allows women to be more outspoken will do more in the long run to help gender equality. “Women are being very vocal… [this will] actually get women into these positions.”
Making clear that he has, “no dog in this fight,” Steve brought up the question of whether this bill would ultimately be beneficial or harmful. Nancy brought up a potential issue, “in an effort to become compliant with the law, you run the risk of getting women on the board who are not qualified.” They agreed that even though this case was hypothetical, that wouldn’t be fair to women on the board and off. “It’s not fair to the shareholders of the company… and some boards are bound by strict bylaws,” Nancy also added
Steve agreed with the points made by both Nancy and Dana, noting that this issue is not only industry-wide, but country-wide in scope. Dana responded by saying that the issue of women’s lack of participation in corporate boards needs to be resolved by a culture shift. “From my perspective, it politicizes women’s roles in these leadership positions,” Dana mentioned. Steve brought up how many people, however, would say that this bill provides the only solution to this problem and is imperative to gender equality. “I really don’t think it’s the only way to get change to happen…you have to change the culture of your business first.” In fact, Steve brought up how, “Companies that are more gender diverse are 15% more likely to out-perform their peers… It shows that greater diversity of thought and so forth is good.”
“We have to look beyond gender,” Nancy described, “We have to look at qualifications. It starts way before board formation.” The issue of gender inequality on corporate boards begins before the board itself. “We have to look at creating opportunities for women, making them aware of opportunities.” This bill might get women on the board, but it won’t validate her place. It would be all too easy for people, she noted, to just say that women are in certain positions because they have to, not because they deserve it. In that way, it can create more cracks for discrimination to seep through in the corporate world. Dana interjected saying that she doesn’t want to see those kinds of comments happening. “There are plenty of women out there who would meet the challenge admirably… diversity of thought does nothing but breed a better culture for everyone,” Nancy continued. Of course, profitability is affected when people all have a say.
“It’s the method,” Nancy said. Dana also commented saying that a lot of the time sexism and these biases are totally unconscious—clarifying that there definitely are many exceptions. “The intent is there. It just doesn’t bring about the solution that would help.”
We can talk as adults about it and say, ‘let’s figure out ways to fix this,’” Steve said, continuing the idea that beginning to talk more about this issue will ultimately lead to new solutions that may be more productive. Pointing to Dana, “otherwise, how will get to the solutions for your generation?” “That’s the most important thing,” she responded, “that we’re actually able to talk about these things. If we don’t ever address the fact that women don’t have the representation on these boards that they should, then nothing is ever going to happen.” Nancy has worked for Qualigence for fourteen years, concluding that women can fill leadership positions in a workplace without a requirement by law if the culture allows for it.
We’d like to have you join the discussion and voice your opinion. Season five of Recruiter Fuel is here. Each week we discuss a new topic related to the world of business and recruiting each Thursday at 2 PM EST. Also, don’t miss our livestream on Facebook and Instagram after each episode at 3pm EST where you can ask Steve questions live.
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