Women’s rights group claims unfair impact of recession proves need for quotas

The recession has highlighted the urgent need for a quota system to boost female representation on company boards, a leading women’s campaign group has said.

According to a report published by the Fawcett Society women bear the brunt of job cuts during the recession because they are more likely to work flexibly, be in part-time work or be on temporary contracts.

By introducing a quota system the campaign group believes more emphasis will be placed on the value of women in the workplace – as seen in Norway where the introduction of a similar quota led to female representation on boards increasing from 6% to 44% in six years.

Currently, only 12% of directors on FTSE–100 boards are women and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) predicted that it will take 73 years before there are equal numbers of men and women in the boardrooms of listed companies in the UK.

Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society, said: “This recession must not be used as an excuse to send women back to the kitchen. Women are now looking to the government to send out a strong signal to businesses that it will not compromise on women’s rights.”

The campaign group also said it welcomed the joint venture announced this week by the EHRC and the Department for Work and Pensions to investigate the impact of the recession on minority groups, but insisted that it must take into account how the downturn could affect different groups of women in different ways.

Jessica Woodrosse, head of campaigns at Fawcett Society, told Personnel Today: “The government needs to look in detail at different groups of women, especially ethnic minority women. Looking at women as [one big] group might hide some of the specific issues affecting smaller groups.”

In January, Personnel Today reported that twice as many women as men were being made redundant during the economic downturn.

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