Baroness Kingsmill, a non-executive director of various British, European and US boards and Deputy Chair of the Competition Commission, said the idea of quotas for the number of women on boards would be taking a step back.
'We need women at the top in order that the culture of organisations can change,' Kingsmill said at the launch of MT's inaugural Inspiring Women conference in the CIty of London. But she argued that quotas aren't the way forward and that problems come from elsewhere. 'We need to remove the barriers constraining women. The biggest one is childcare and this silly idea of 9-5. In Denmark the cultural norm underpins and liberates parents to work.'
Kingsmill also said that women need to take change one step at a time: 'Women in 25% of board seats is too low, but it's still worth aiming for.' Even so, Kingsmill spoke of her frustration at the pace of change: 'I've been talking at conferences like this for 35 years. Equal pay still does not exist.'
Rosaleen Blair, chief executive and founder of recruitment organisation Alexander Mann Solutions, and Inspiring Women's keynote speaker, agreed: 'I hate the idea of quotas. We should focus more on education and making sure we are creating talent and having the right executives coming through. At the moment we don't have enough women in the pipeline to bring about radical change.'
Blair also said childcare policies need to change, but that the debate shouldn't just centre around women. 'We need more family friendly policies - men are also affected,' she said.
The Inspiring Women conference brings together some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs, management experts and female business leaders to offer inspirational insights on getting to the top. Follow @MT_editorial on Twitter for more updates throughout the day, or use our Inspiring Women hashtag: #InspiringWomen