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Should there be gender quotas on boards?

On 3 December 2021, the Florence School of Banking and Finance organized an online debate revolving around the motion ‘There should be gender quotas on boards’. Sylvie Goulard (Deputy Governor, Banque of France) was the proponent, while Renée Adams (Professor at Said Business School, Oxford University) was the opponent. Elena Carletti (Professor of Finance, Bocconi University) chaired and moderated the event.

This event was part of two FBF distinct series: FBFDiscuss!, gathering two speakers with contrasting views to discuss a specific motion, and Women in Finance, promoting gender equality by highlighting successful women working in the fields of banking and finance.

While both speakers recognized that low female representation on boards – and generally, in position of leadership – is a pressing issue, the debate focused on whether the introduction of quotas would be the appropriate method to foster gender balance in a way that is sustainable in the long term.

The proponent, Sylvie Goulard, opened the debate by providing examples from recent European and global experiences, highlighting cases where quotas were particularly successful, while alternative mechanisms failed. The achievements that such quotas could bring would represent a success not only for gender itself, but for the society as a whole: in fact, she highlighted that gender balance is not only a matter of rule of law, equality, and fairness, but also a better use of talents.

On the opponent’s side, Renee Adams supported her thesis by arguing that the introduction of gender quotas, ultimately fails to allocate the responsibility of gender equality over the whole society, by reinforcing the existing gender stereotypes and enabling ‘lazy’ policymaking towards solving the unequal gender representation across all societal actors, not exclusively the economic ones.

As in similar past events, the audience was able to provide their feedback on the discussion through a set of poll questions, which indicated that the vast majority of them seems to agree with the initial assumption of the debate, that there should be gender quotas on boards.

For more information about the positions of the two speakers, read the blog post here.

To watch the recording of the event, click here.

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