Gender quotas needed to get more women into boardrooms: Forum

(From left) Ms Karen Gilchrist, CNBC reporter and moderator; Ms Sarah Cottle, global head of market insight for S&P Global Platts; Ms Louise Harvey, non-executive chairman of strategic communications at FTI Consulting; Ms Anne-Gabrielle Heilbronner,
(From left) Ms Karen Gilchrist, CNBC reporter and moderator; Ms Sarah Cottle, global head of market insight for S&P Global Platts; Ms Louise Harvey, non-executive chairman of strategic communications at FTI Consulting; Ms Anne-Gabrielle Heilbronner, management board member and secretary general of Publicis Groupe; Ms Helena Ma, managing director of Idea Communication; and Ms Kaori Sasaki, founder and chief executive of ewoman, during a panel discussion yesterday at the Women's Forum Asia.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE KIAT

Policymakers across the region should adopt quotas on corporate boards to reduce the gender gap in leadership positions, said female speakers at a forum yesterday.

Ms Sarah Cottle, global head of market insight for S&P Global Platts, said in a panel discussion that legislative measures on gender quotas in some countries have been shown to be effective, so they should be "considered more holistically and globally".

But Ms Louise Harvey, non-executive chairman of strategic communications at FTI Consulting, said that to bring about gender quotas, one must "be prepared to challenge people in leadership roles to make change".

Ms Anne-Gabrielle Heilbronner, member of the management board and secretary general of Publicis Groupe, noted that women held 44.2 per cent of directorships in France last year, a figure credited to mandatory gender quotas introduced in 2011.

In contrast, a 2017 study found that women account for just 12.4 per cent of board seats in Asia-Pacific companies, said CNBC reporter and discussion moderator Karen Gilchrist.

The discussion was held as part of the Women's Forum Asia at Raffles City Convention Centre.

Ms Kaori Sasaki, founder and chief executive of ewoman, said the lower numbers in the Asia-Pacific could be due to family values.

"Even in Japan, it depends on the city. Tokyo is more international and global, with new ways of thinking introduced... but in other cities, of course there are cultural differences," she said, adding that some men in Tokyo help their wives take care of the housework, which would be less common in other cities.

PUSHING FOR DIVERSITY

Once we are in the world, what do we do? It is our responsibility... to be extremely active, to be members of committees, to chair committees.

MS ANNE-GABRIELLE HEILBRONNER, member of the management board and secretary general of Publicis Groupe, on creating a pipeline of female talent.

Ms Heilbronner said shifting these expectations of women in society means addressing societal bias and pushing for diversity through global networks.

Creating a pipeline of female talent, which requires greater consideration of how tasks are shared between men and women, equal pay and availability of childcare, is also important, she added.

"Once we are in the world, what do we do? It is our responsibility... to be extremely active, to be members of committees, to chair committees," she said.

Speakers at the forum also discussed the role of the private sector in addressing climate change and the shift in societal mindsets to better value women's leadership.

The Straits Times is a media partner of the three-day forum, which ends today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2019, with the headline 'Gender quotas needed to get more women into boardrooms: Forum'. Print Edition | Subscribe