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Excerpt: The issue of gender diversity in the corporate boardroom has risen to new prominence in the wake of recent efforts to impose quotas for women directors for companies in the European Union. The EU’s recent initiative has provoked controversy not only as to the optimal gender balance of boardrooms but also as to whether a quota system is a fair or effective way to achieve the underlying objective of women’s full and equal participation in corporate affairs. In the United States, the relative dearth of women directors on public company boards, and the potential effect on company performance of increased gender diversity, has been a topic of interest in the corporate governance sphere for many years.
The meaningful participation of women at all levels of the corporate hierarchy is an important goal. From a practical perspective, however, we believe that aspects of the European experience demonstrate the downsides of using a quota system to obligate this result. Individual public companies, and the U.S. corporate culture generally, would, in our view, be best served by corporate boards’ taking a dedicated, thoughtful and individualized approach to the nomination, election and full integration of women directors. This approach seems likely to yield the most successful substantive result in the short and long term, producing benefits both for corporate performance and the common weal.