Women in the Boardroom

Women in the Boardroom

August 06, 2011
Originally published in The Economist

SIR – From an American legal perspective, laws that mandate quotas for women on corporate boards in some European countries seem utterly bizarre (“The wrong way to promote women”, July 23rd). In America such quotas would be struck down because they disregard the right of male directors to equal treatment. The Supreme Court ruled in its 1989 Croson decision that quotas violate, rather than promote, equality, calling it “completely unrealistic” to expect groups to be represented in each field or activity “in lockstep proportion to their representation in the local population.”

American courts have struck down quotas and sex-balance requirements for boards and commissions in cases such as Back v Carter. They have allowed companies to challenge quotas on behalf of their male or white employees in cases such as Lutheran Church Missouri Synod v FCC. And they overturned government-mandated preferences for female business owners in the Lamprecht case.