Female quotas won’t sort out the boardroom balance

NEWS COMMENT: A respectful salute to the new guards at the palace

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If you’ve been watching The Apprentice, a new study that reveals women hold fewer than 30 per cent of the top jobs in Britain won’t come as much of a surprise.

If you’ve not seen last night’s final yet I won’t spoil the ending. But it’s enough to know that only one woman – Jade Nash – made it to the end of the process.

The remaining women were dispatched quickly and dispassionately by Lord Sugar in the boardroom and not always because they’d been the weakest candidate during a task.

In quite a few of their cases – most notably when it came to Gabrielle Omar and Jenna Whittingham – they were given the boot over male candidates who’d done worse...but had shouted louder.

Just think about how many times Stephen Brady slimed his way out of the firing line by talking over anyone who stood in his way.

He got his comeuppance eventually, but his bolshy attitude got him much further in the competition than his natural talent deserved.

Worryingly, when it came to the women, their performance in the boardroom (all be it a TV studio for show) seems to mirror that of women in real-life business.

There’s clearly no reason why female executives aren’t as good as the blokes. Perhaps it’s just that they aren’t as skilled in sticking up for themselves.

We’re just not natural shouters and, when women do finally find their voices, it’s all too easy for the system to dismiss us as emotional screechers.

So does it matter that there isn’t a 50/50 split when it comes to who holds down the top jobs?

Of course it does. We women aren’t here for decorative purposes, or to make sure the cushions are always plumped.

We’ve got a real part to play in making stuff happen. We’re talking about a proper contribution here.

But the idea of issuing employers with quotas dictating how many women should be shoe-horned into the top jobs isn’t the way to rectify this mess either.

Holding the door open smacks of a flimsy attempt at chivalry, whereas what we need is better equality. Women can help that process along by shouting about their achievements.