Wednesday, 21 October 2009

"Surf's Up!" says Harriet.

Harriet Harman, the UK minister for women, has told a Treasury Select Committee that a lack of women at the top of City firms is due to "institutionalised gender discrimination" and that action is needed to end the "nightmare" of male-dominated leadership of major companies.

Women need to get on their boards and ride the waves along with the guys said Ms Harman.
(OK, she didn’t say exactly that, but sure that you get the drift.)

Apparently only 19% of senior employees at the Treasury are women, leading Ms Harman to say that both the private and public sector have room for improvement.

However, she said the UK would not be following the lead of Norway, which introduced a 40% quota for female membership on the boards of its largest companies.

Oddly enough, although it was new fathers that were also highlighted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission yesterday (for not taking their full entitlement to parental leave) chairman Trevor Phillips told the same committee that women faced "chronic" discrimination in the City due to entrenched structures. And to make sure that the wrinklies didn’t feel neglected, he also said City firms prioritised staff between 25 and 39, giving the impression that those over 40 had "nothing to contribute".

BBC Business News: Get more women on boards - Harman
  • Should, as Harriet Harman suggest, firms take the lead themselves and encourage flexible and part-time working?
  • What do you think of Norway’s approach of introducing a quota for female membership on the boards of its largest companies?
  • Speaking at the same committee. labour MP Mark Todd said some industries needed a whole culture change in terms of their attitudes to female employees. What does he mean?
  • “Make sure you have diverse boards and a proper meritocratic approach,” said Ms Harman. What does this mean in simple English?


  1. “And tell us, Miss EBTG, how you came to be on the Board of ‘Fjords R Us’?” “Well, they only had a 30% representation of females in the Board room so I was the obvious choice!” Is that better than people assuming I must have slept my way to the top? Difficult choice! At least with the latter I would be known for being good at something!!!

    I guess the argument for quotas is that it forces a situation which by its very existence may then become the norm. The ‘Old boys’ may realise that women make a valuable contribution to the running of the organisation - a realisation that may never have happened if they hadn’t been forced to have women in there in the first place. However those women who have the fortune (or misfortune) to be the trial blazers will no doubt find many obstacles to get over before their presence is accepted. Getting in the board room was probably the easiest bit.


  2. Something you should read ...

    Amongst other things, it shows how 700 rapes are turned into 70,000 by people like Harriet Harman in order to pursue their own ambitions.


  3. Not sure that manipulating stats is a gender issue. I get the feeling that politicians of any gender will use numbers in order to further their careers (I think it might be a key competency)!


  4. Anonymous: Thanks for the post. Not entirely sure how it contributes to the discussion, but in the interests of free speech I'll allow it so remain on the site!

    Anonymous (EBTG): Ditto! Think you need to develop an aptitude test for statistical manipulation ability! Sure there's a market!