Opinion

Shoot me now feminists – but I am so terribly bored of this gender equality lark

5 min read

31 March 2015

Actually, I am pretty bored of the whole government statistic thing. But then my accounts department has been having its annual tussle with a particularly absurd statistics requirement called Prodcom.

For those of you who are mercifully ignorant, Prodcom is a European directive that means all manufacturers have to submit records of how many of each product they sell.   How this makes Europe a better place to be if we have made 100 bedsides or 500, I really have no idea – but then I am digressing.

The targets on gender equality are yet again in the news with apparent jubilation over Lord Davies’ latest report for Vince Cable, which shows female board representation having nearly doubled to 23.5 per cent, nearer than most election promised targets, being only slightly lower than 2015’s aimed 25 per cent.  

Cable is always quick to underline the generally accepted statistics that well balanced male/female boards out-perform male-dominated ones. But then so do boards of well-balanced personality mixes. Is this where we will be going next, anti-discrimination legislation based on Myers Briggs?

Equalities minister Nicky Morgan is jumping for joy at having eradicated all of the male-only boards in the FTSE 100 and increasing female executives, currently at only 8.6 per cent in the FTSE 100 itself and 4.6 per cent in the 250 index.

This is where I begin to get lost as, if at this stage boards are forced to pick from 8.6 per cent of the candidates, how on earth can they be ensured to get the best people? The maths just doesn’t add up. If the people aren’t there to choose from, the companies have to end up suffering in enforced quotas. Even Morgan and Cable say that the problem still lies in the lack of women in executive roles in general and concede that this will hamper further progress. 

Cable urges companies to address the deficiency of women in chief executive and chairman roles so that there will be more likely candidates coming through but fails to really solve the issue. Lord Davies encourages investors to put pressure on companies to have more females on board – like investors are going to put gender equality over return for their buck.

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There is much talk about pink and fluffy nurturing and retaining females at mid-level to ensure they progress. They recommend encouraging non- level women to take non-executive board level roles in smaller companies to help them progress. Again, why would small companies hire someone less qualified because they are female? Sorry – but it is all too absurd.

EEF is right about women being thoroughly underrepresented in my own sector, manufacturing. They recommend we tap into the neglected skill pool. Again – where are all these women queuing up for senior positions in manufacturing? EEF overlook that manufacturing is still regarded as a pretty unattractive career for most people of either sex – the majority of applicants I see looking at working on a shop floor are doing so because they perceive themselves unable to attain other careers. 

Most of all, I have a real issue about the huge amounts spent on paper pushers accumulating this information, and the threat of Big Brother interference of choice based on merit.

But if I had reservations about Prodcom and time wasting statistics before, I note that the Guardian, for some reason best known to itself, has decided to compare the number of women in the FTSE 100 to the number of men called John or Dave. Really? Seriously? Is this the sort of information that we have to govern our lives by these days?

I must just nip off and place a senior job ad for an ESFP, with dark hair, a white collar and called Gemima to suit all government requirements – excellent, my cocker spaniel will do nicely.

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