Women 1st calls for views on female board quotas

By Gurjit Degun

- Last updated on GMT

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Quotas for women on boards: Debbie White and Lynne Franks talk at a Women 1st event
Quotas for women on boards: Debbie White and Lynne Franks talk at a Women 1st event
Women 1st, which aims to increase the number of women in senior roles in hospitality, is calling for views on whether the Government should introduce quotas for women on boards.

The initiative also works in the passenger transport and travel and tourism industries.

Speaking at the group's latest networking event, ​patron Lynne Franks, and contract caterer Sodexo UK and Ireland chief executive Debbie White, said quotas would be a positive move for UK plc. 

Their comments came after a report in 2011 by Lord Davies which recommended all FTSE 100 companies should have 25% female representation on their boards by 2015. However recent figures suggest that the rate of appointments has slowed drastically, with female representation currently remaining at 17%.

However, Women 1st said that the hospitality and tourism industry faces a similar situation – women make up almost 60% of the workforce, but only around 6% of board level roles.

Changing views

Franks said: “I was at the original breakfast meeting chaired by Lord Davies and, when he talked about quotas, none of us thought it was necessary. Since then, there has been a huge amount of work on getting more women into leadership roles, but the reality is, they’re not there. So my view has shifted and, personally, I am very keen on having quotas for as long as it’s necessary until we get to that point.

“I understand that isn’t everyone’s view or, in fact, the view of Women 1st, which is not about positive discrimination or quotas. Our initiative focuses on the clear business case for having women in senior roles.

“However, the topic of quotas continues to be hotly debated in the media and among women’s networks and Women 1st is keen to gather people’s views as to whether public opinion is changing.”

White also stressed that while Sodexo has exceeded its own targets for women in leadership in the UK, she personally feels that more needs to be done across UK business as a whole.


She said: “Six years ago, I did not agree with quotas. I was absolutely anti-quotas. I thought in the rush to make the numbers, women who were not the best qualified may get appointed.

“But, if you look at the statistics, over 60% of our graduates are women. In my era, over 40% of graduates were women. There are enough very good women out there to do really good jobs, so not having enough women is not the issue.

“If we had to vote on whether we should have a quota, I would vote for it. I know it’s controversial and it is not a view widely shared, but at this point, progress has not been good enough and quotas would be a way of ensuring everyone takes responsibility. Gender diversity is not somebody else’s responsibility – we all have a role to play.”

Women 1st has set up a poll on its LinkedIn group​, which allows people to share their views.

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