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Ethics and Leadership News

March 9, 2012

How can we achieve diversity at the top?

With female leadership numbers stagnating, do we need quotas to push boardroom equality?

Topics: Leadership

Norway’s 2003 quota mandated that companies reach a 40 percent female representation on their boards of directors. Now, nearly a decade later, little international progress has been made toward boardroom equality. In New York, women hold just 15.9 percent of board and executive officer positions. At current rates it would take 40 years for board seats to be shared equally between men and women. So are quotas the answer?

A recent piece in the Financial Times suggested that imposing national quotas could undermine the greater issue at hand — how do we develop and retain a pipeline of diverse female talent? Research by Professor Bruce Kogut indicates that connectivity is the key. Women who have female mentors seem to go farther — these relationships can incubate professional success and raise women to the ranks of senior management at firms.

To that end, implementing even low quotas can be powerful in increasing the number of women at the top of firms and ultimately establishing a strong network of women leaders. To further explore these questions of quotas, The Bernstein Center hosted a symposium highlighting ideas surrounding equality and female board representation, followed by a research report examining these issues.

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