Postcards

How the power players do it - by Fortune senior editor at large Patricia Sellers

British women need to be more "American"

March 8, 2012: 11:28 AM ET
Today, International Women's Day, brings news that progress in the boardroom remains feeble: 10% of directors' seats worldwide are held by women, according to a new report. Meanwhile, as the U.K. contemplates quotas for corporate boards, a British businesswoman exhorts her countrywomen to assert themselves.-Pattie Sellers

By Domini Pettifar, joint managing director, dnx marketing

Do British businesswomen need more swagger? It is a question I raise, in all seriousness, as the subject of women as corporate directors has become a hot topic well beyond the boardroom. Prime Minister David Cameron has said he would consider instituting quotas to increase the participation of women on boards--a year after Lord Mervyn Davies issued a scathing report calling for companies on the FTSE 100 to increase the proportion of their female directors to 25% by 2015, from about 15% today.

These efforts are well-intentioned but fraught. Few would dispute that a boardroom that reflects the workforce is anything but good for business (and the general well being-of society). But no corporation wants to be told how to manage its business by government, and women don't want to secure seats on boards to simply to satisfy legislation.  They will wonder if it's mediocracy or meritocracy.

More importantly, these measures do nothing to address the root cause of the abysmally low numbers of women on U.K. corporate boards--which brings me back to my original question: Do women in the U.K. need to be more assertive, more like their U.S. counterparts? More

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