Say it ain’t so, Mr. Cameron.
But it is so—David Cameron, the Tory Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has just said in a speech in Stockholm that British businesses might be forced to establish quotas for women on their boards of directors.
I wonder if he brought this up with the Queen, who happens to be a woman, at his regular audience with the monarch? Columnist James Delingpole thinks U. K. women are capable enough that they don't need this and wishes Cameron were more honest about his reasons for proposing quotas:
I could understand it if he said: "Look, I have no shame, no principles, no moral or ideological core in my blubbery, spineless, Heathite body. My Coalition government is run by Lib Dems, a marketing man and focus groups. And what they all tell me is: "Suck up to the female demographic." So that's why I'm saying this crap."
But that's not what Cameron has said in Stockholm. He's actually trying to claim that he's doing it for the good of British business.
No corporation is going to fail to put a talented person on its board because that person is a woman. Women are making headway in the corporate world without “help” from quotas, and it would be a shame to make it look like women who succeed on their own have done so because of demeaning quotas.
Jamie Whyte, writing for Standpoint, the erudite, Brit online publication, regards this meddling as part and parcel of government’s general tendency to push us around, whether it telling businesses whom they may pick for boards, investing our money in “green” companies, or telling banks how to loan their money.
The usual objection to such policies is that politicians are no good at "picking winners", which is quite right. But those who bother to make this argument are being earnest dupes. The politicians themselves do not believe they have picked winners. If they did, rather than forcing others to make investments, they would make them themselves.
Harriet Harman, Labour's deputy leader and shadow culture secretary, goes even further. She claims employers discriminate against women and pay them less than they are really worth. By proposing to pass a law that imposes compulsory female quotas in boardrooms, she forgoes a wonderful business opportunity. She could start a business, hire all these brilliant but underpaid women and kick the butts of competitors that employ mediocre men at the same wages. Or Mr Cameron could let some of his mates know about the banks' mistakes and they could make a killing lending to small businesses.
If you had the prescience that allowed you to pick winning Lotto numbers, would you pass a law forcing everyone to select those numbers? Would you even announce the numbers in public? Are you that selfless? Politicians who claim their bullying is merely an attempt to force unnoticed profit opportunities on to stupid business people would have us believe that they are.
This is not an argument against having women on boards, but against forcing businesses to have quotas for women. Talented women rise to the top every day and they don’t need to be demeaned in the way that Cameron proposes.