I’ve been a long-standing advocate for bringing gender balance to corporate leadership through our Women As Leaders course.

So I was pleased to read the recent news that California may become the first US state to impose a quota for the inclusion of women on the boards of public companies headquartered there.

The state has passed a bill that would – if signed into law – require at least one woman to be appointed to board positions by the end of 2019. And two women for every board of five members, and three for boards of six, by 2021.

That’s great news, but it got me thinking, ‘what more could be done’?

Should we aim for more?

While attending a recent event in Gothenburg, I sensed the feeling around this topic to be very anti-quota. Women were saying the usual arguments about not wanting to be token women but to be promoted for their contribution.

Then something very interesting happened. During a talk by a female CEO in the pharmaceutical industry, she suddenly exclaimed: ‘I’m just reflecting that the world is 50% women. So why not have a quota of 50% on any senior team or indeed any team, not just boards. There are enough competent women around for the ‘token women’ debate to be silenced. Things have moved on.’

I, of course, absolutely agreed with her sentiment. It was fascinating to see the ‘aha’ moment on the faces of other delegates, especially female delegates who were still clinging to the old arguments.

Gender balance in the UK

In the UK, we’re still lagging behind with gender balance. The Hampton-Alexander Review has recommended that a third of senior FTSE 350 positions are filled by women by 2020. But this government-backed target is likely to be missed.

Women represent just 25.5 per cent of directors in FTSE 350 companies and most of these are non-executive positions. The Hampton-Alexander review was launched by the government in 2016 to increase gender diversity. To meet the target, 40 per cent of all appointments made in the next two years would need to go to women.

Let’s hope this Californian law is signed off and brings change in other US states and across other countries. Many are yet to recognise the proven business case that boards, and the bottom line, are greatly enhanced by the presence of women leaders.

RTC recommendations on gender equality:

  • Consider benchmarking salaries
  • Encourage female employees to take credit where it’s due. And to be politely persistent when it comes to seeking the rewards they deserve.
  • Use psychometric testing to help understand skills and diversity in more scientific ways
  • Build an organisation where differing thoughts and opinions are recognised as good things. This will open the door to higher performance, innovation and loyalty.