Missing Women on Corporate Boards: A Case-Study of Belgium's Gender Board Quota

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - Room 656A (University of Glasgow)
Hannelore Roos , Hasselt Universiteit
What are the key arguments that board directors deploy to support their position pro or against gender quotas for boards? The majority of the Belgian decision makers interviewed (28 out of 40) are not in favor of the binding gender quota legislation for corporate boards. At the same time, the monitoring of the changing gender composition of corporate boards of listed companies indicates increasing compliance with Belgium’s gender board quota law. In quantitative terms, Belgium’s gender board quota law can to date undoubtedly be considered successful. The predominance of arguments against gender board quotas indicate that this measure remains controversial among directors, despite clear indications that boards are de facto complying with the law. Indeed, fleshing out the main arguments and dominant discourses in the wider debate on gender board quotas helps uncover the rationales for resisting gender equality initiatives (e.g. Cockburn, 1991; Connell, 2006; Crosby et al. 2005; Hing et al., 2002). It encourages reflection on the status quo as an important first step in order to correct historically grown imbalances and to change institutionalized practices and beliefs (Van den Brink & Stobbe, 2014).  The problematic nature of such practices is conversely revealed by the arguments used by respondents who support gender board quotas, highlighting the biased, non-meritocratic, and highly (gender) exclusive nature of common board appointment practices. In absence of hard law, boards would remain stuck in a vicious circle of selecting directors belonging to known male-dominated networks.
  • CES 2017 Roos & Zanoni.pdf (673.0 kB)