European governments have been making headlines for adopting ground-breaking quotas designed to give more women a seat in the boardroom. Embracing new mandates to close the disparity gap among female and male leadership roles, countries such as France, Italy, Spain and Germany have adopted quota laws as a powerful tool for ensuring equality.
There’s no denying that Europe’s quotas are helping bring more women into the top ranks of business, specifically the boardroom, and are accelerating change.
While still woefully lacking in equality, the share of female CEO’s doubled to 4% in Europe over the last seven years, a recent study shows. Data from the European Commission show the number of women holding board positions has increased materially since the quotas were first enacted in 2013, with Iceland currently in the lead for all EU countries at 44%.
While the lack of equality at the top is not disputed, and study after study shows positive outcomes for having women in leadership roles, the question becomes: could quotas work to accelerate gender diversity on boards in the United States?
In recent decades, the United States and its leaders have been skeptical of, and oftentimes openly hostile to, the idea of quotas. Quotas in the U.S. would be open to attack because they don’t directly advance the goal of corporate leaders — better corporate governance. This was a primary concern for Swedish opposition parties who in effect killed a board equality quota proposal. In the U.S., leadership diversity is (in most circles) acknowledged to result in better decision making, and thus better governance and performance, so if we want to see real change, we have to push for ways to work with corporate leaders on their terms.
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