DUNCAN BARKES: Women needed in the boardroom right now

USUALLY when I hear the word ‘quota’ I shudder. It is normally associated with patronising politically correct drivel. But there is a quota that is desperately needed.

The EU is set to abandon a minimum 40 per cent quota of women in the UK’s boardrooms. I normally treat anything that comes out of Brussels with utter contempt, but in the case of tackling inequality in UK business, even I am prepared to put my principles on hold.

Despite the promises in workplaces across the land sexism and attitudes from the dark ages are still rampant.

In many ways this is a far bigger crime, because the usually ‘all male’ upper management talk a good game about equal opportunities, but the reality is vastly different.

Try and write a list of five female chief executives and you will struggle. When talking about successful businesswomen, people cite examples such as Anita Roddick, Deborah Meaden or Hilary Devey, but they miss a key point.

Whilst these ladies are unquestionably successful in commerce, they are all entrepreneurs; they made their own success by creating their own businesses. They are not proof that inequality is dead in the boardroom.

The question needs to be asked: why we do not see a woman as the chief executive of Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Southern Railway or Tupperware?

Female representation in UK boardrooms is a pitiful 16 per cent. Positive action needs to be taken to ensure this figure rapidly increases over the next few years.

Women are more than capable of doing the same job as men, usually with better results.

Some of the best bosses I have ever worked for have been women, but few of them get the opportunities to really demonstrate their potential.

In this country some people still think it is acceptable to pay a women less than a man for doing exactly the same job. Some of the attitudes I encounter from men towards women in the workplace are positively prehistoric.

A minimum 40 per cent quota of women in the UK’s boardrooms would have gone some way to changing these outdated views.

Sadly, it seems not to be. UK bosses make the right noises about tackling inequality, but actions speak louder than words.