'A Toad We Have to Swallow' Perceptions and Participation of Women in Business and the Implications for Sustainability.
In Creating Corporate Sustainability. Gender as an Agent for Change, Beate Sjåfjell and Irene Lynch Fannon (eds), Cambridge University Press, 2018.
Posted: 16 May 2018 Last revised: 23 May 2018
Date Written: May 16, 2018
This chapter considers the EU initiative mandating a 40% quota of women members of boards of European listed companies. This Directive was passed by the European Parliament and described on that occasion as 'A Toad We have to Swallow' by a self identified pro- business member of the Parliament. However the Directive has not been enacted. This chapter discusses the so called 'business case' made for female participation in business leadership surveying various positive reports on the influence of women in business. However, such positive reports are often accompanied by recommendations that women can be 'encouraged' to participate and eventually equality of representation and influence will be achieved. This chapter rejects this approach and shows how the European initiative comes from a different perspective- namely that so much public investment in the education and development of women cannot be lost. Therefore women need to be supported in whatever way is feasible including mandatory quotas to participate in public and business life. In the context of achieving real change to corporate sustainability this story illustrates a number of challenges...the first the alarming and vitriolic resistance from business to even relatively minor changes such as this quota for non-executive directors, second the failure (sometimes from the most surprising quarters) to understand the importance of law and how law can change our lives, both of these camps yield a third surprising trend, support for voluntarism rather than regulation. Finally, this chapter argues for a revival of progressive theories which support an understanding of the corporation as a participant in society.
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