The push to have quotas set for the number of women on boards received a boost last week, with an audience of business and HR executives at the Diversity Council Australia’s (DCA) Annual Diversity Debate coming out in support of the move.
The audience of the annual debate, sponsored by Ernst & Young, heard a discussion on the topic of whether quotas for women on boards are necessary. The final vote of audience members showed the majority support quotas, with MC Tony Jones awarding the debate to the affirmative with 61 percent of votes,
The main argument supporting the case for quotas looked at the lack of progress on getting women on boards and the fact that quotas are the ideal way to achieve change quickly.
In opposition, the negative side argued that change needs to work from the bottom up instead of being imposed from the top down, and urged that broader issues of gender equity including flexible career options, discrimination and pay equity need to be dealt with rather than a narrow focus on women on boards.
It was clear the majority of panelists agreed that more needs to be done to increase the number of women on boards, with DCA CEO Nareen Young agreeing that all see the need for change.
“But the question is how can this be successfully and sustainably achieved? While it is encouraging to see that recent figures indicate a jump in women on boards, only time will tell if this is sustained. The big question is, can we afford to wait any longer than we already have?”
The debate panel included:
For the affirmative:
• Alan Kohler, Editor in Chief, the Eureka Report and Business Spectator
• Carol Schwartz AM, Founder Women’s Leadership Institute Australia
• Uschi Schreiber, Deputy CEO, Ernst & Young
For the negative:
• Serge Sardo, CEO, the Australian Human Resources Institute
• Danny Gilbert AM, Managing Partner, Gilbert + Tobin
• Lisa Annese, Programs Director, Diversity Council Australia