U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden visited with representatives from the Women, Land and Legacy's state leadership team on Friday, November 14, 2014 in Des Moines, Iowa. Women, Land and Legacy helps women across the state form local networks that can assist them in their farming and conversation decision making. USDA photo by Darin Leach.

In 2012 I launched Campaign for Merit in Business in a bid to challenge the Government’s bullying of major companies into increasing the proportion of women on their boards, which it was doing at the time – and continues to do – with the threat of legislated gender quotas.

The threat contained in the Davies Report, 2011 led to the proportion of female directors on FTSE100 boards doubling to 25 per cent by 2015. In the second paragraph of this report’s Executive Summary (p.3) we find the confident statement that: ‘gender-diverse boards have a positive impact on performance.2’ But for the evidence to back this assertion, however, you find nothing. Just an empty footnote at the bottom of the page.

Despite the huge government resources at their disposal, the report’s authors, it seems, could  not in the end find  any research evidence to reference their absurd claim against. No such evidence has since emerged and, of course, none will emerge. The claim was a barefaced lie.

But if you thought that might have stopped the Government from setting its sights firmly on FTSE 350 companies, demanding 33 per cent female representation on their boards by 2020, think again. No, expect instead for FTSE 350 companies meekly to accede to this bullying, just as FTSE 100 companies did.

Yet by 2012 there was already mounting evidence from longitudinal studies – from Norway, United States, Germany  – of a causal link demonstrating the reverse – between increasing female representation on boards and corporate financial decline. This was the time that David Cameron and other politicians were confidently proclaiming that appointing more women onto boards would result in corporate financial performance improvement – a lie.

Was their eagerness to imply that a business case existed for more women on boards a bid to distance them from obvious (and wholly valid) accusations of feminist-driven social engineering? Of course.

When I  presented  the international evidence of corporate financial decline that followed increased female board representation to House of Commons and House of Lords inquiries in 2012 neither MPs nor peers challenged it. Needless to say this had no effect on stopping this particular female privileging initiative from carrying on regardless.

Yet there are a number of perfectly simple and well-understood reasons for why only a small minority of FTSE board directors have, historically, been women. The foremost is gender-typical differences in work ethic. Sociologist Dr Catherine Hakim explained this in her paper on ‘Preference Theory’ (2000). While 50 per cent of British men are work-centred, only one in seven British women is. Why wouldn’t we expect men to outnumber women on FTSE boards by a factor of about 3.5:1 on account of this one issue alone, all else being equal?

Last week the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a new taxpayer-financed* report titled, An inquiry into fairness, transparency and diversity in FTSE 350 board appointments,** yet another mind-numbing feminist propaganda tract that predictably ignores the evidence  and gender typical work orientations.

I worry that few people – including journalists – will review the report in any detail. They should.

Of the ideological driver behind it there is no doubt. You only have to read the three ‘terms of reference’ (p.117). One commands: ‘Identify where improvements to recruitment practice are needed to ensure recruitment practices utilise to best effect the provisions of the Equality Act 2010, and the equality requirements in the Financial Reporting Council’s Corporate Code of Governance (as amended September 2012) with the aim of achieving better representation of women at board level. [My emphasis.]

The report’s Foreword was written by one Laura Carstensen, the same woman we publicly challenged two years ago (at a time when eight of the 10 EHRC commissioners were women – isn’t gender diversity a fine thing!?) to provide evidence of a causal link between ‘more women on boards’ and enhanced financial performance. Details of our challenge are here. What happened? Well, she failed to respond with any evidence, possibly because it does not exist. Two years later her Foreword opines that: ‘Increasing diversity at board level – and throughout companies – is acknowledged as a priority by business, government and regulators as well many shareholders and customers.

‘Companies have made welcome progress in increasing gender diversity on boards over the last five years, with the FTSE 100 sector as a whole meeting the 25 per cent target set by Lord Davies by the end of 2015…(though) this headline achievement masks the reality of how individual companies are performing’.

Badly in Laura’s view: ‘Our top boards still remain male and White’, [that’s it Laura, add some racism to the sexism…] she complains, adding that the lack of women in executive director roles at Britain’s biggest companies is particularly stark.

The report goes on to claim that: ‘Research has shown that companies with more diverse boards can operate more effectively, by understanding their customers, and more innovatively, by being more open to change. This can in turn lead to increased profits and returns to shareholders.’

Really?

Maybe it ‘can’, Laura, but there’s no evidence that it does, in the real world, none.

Not to let truth stand in the way of a good story the Report’s section on ‘The impact of board diversity’ reads:

‘Diversity on boards is not simply an issue of fairness: research suggests that more diverse boards bring positive benefits to businesses. A number of studies show an association between the numbers of women on FTSE boards and improved financial performance (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, 2011; McKinsey & Company, 2007)’.

The  DBIS, it won’t surprise you by now,  has carried out no such studies in this area. It prefers instead to misrepresent studies and reports published by others.

Nor does the EHRC’s deceit and trickery stop here. Its website page ‘Responses to our inquiry’ cites directors and CEOs from a number of organisations which, lo and behold, includes one Sam Smethers, to whom no comment is attributed, but who is CEO of the Fawcett Society, a long-established and notorious radical feminist campaigning organisation that produces… er … nothing of any value.

The report’s Recommendations (pp.13-15) could have been written before the inquiry was undertaken (and possibly were) amounting as they do to a long list of interventions that major companies and their advisers must do – voluntarily of course – regardless of organisational disruption and cost, in order to hand directorships to women at the expense of better qualified men.

 

*  Male taxpayers pay 72 per cent of the income tax collected in the UK annually, which is around £70 billion more than women.

** The Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report following their inquiry into appointments to FTSE350 boards – 23 March, 2016

 

Mike Buchanan is the leader of the political party Justice for Men & Boys. The party will be co-hosting the second International Conference on Men’s Issues at the Excel Centre, London, July 8-10. The 20 speakers include five women. Details here.

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