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Quotas 'could help women rise to top'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 02/04/13

The British have a long-standing aversion to the concept of quotas in any walk of life, considering them to be the new-fangled, intrusive work of sinister Brussels bureaucrats determined to control the milk output of every cow within the EU from the comfort of their desk, and preferring to adopt a more holistic approach to problem-solving in many cases.

However, the tide is turning, with certain experts recently suggesting that the lack of female representation in top lawyer jobs could be changed through the introduction of some type of quota-based system.

Nicola Rabson, partner at Linklaters' Employment & Incentives department, recently told Management Today that she has changed her mind on how this would affect the industry and the role of women within it.

"I have come full circle on quotas. I was very anti-them, I thought they were tokenistic and [thought] that I wouldn't want a board position on that basis. But I've come around to them. I think it is the only way things will change. We are all attracted to our own likeness: if you go to a party you are most likely to talk to someone the same age, gender and class as you," she explained.

In addition to raising the surrealistic nightmare of a room in which hundreds of people talk animatedly to their mirror image, the Linklaters partner pointed out that the current approach to gender diversity is patently ineffective, given how few women rise to the top compared to the number that enter the profession at an early stage.

However, Ms Rabson was not wholly pessimistic, noting that there has been a cultural shift in many boardrooms which allows men to take on a paternal role and does not leave childcare completely to women.

President of the Law Society Lucy Scott-Moncrieff recently called for firms to create targets for how many women they promote to senior positions such as partner.