I confess I’d never heard of Engender before this afternoon, when I was doing some research on Nicola Sturgeon’s plans to have Scottish companies ‘voluntarily’ introduce gender-balanced boards. On the website’s home page we find:
Engender is Scotland’s feminist organisation.
A recent article in Holyrood, a current affairs magazine, included this:
Emma Ritch, executive director of Scottish feminist campaigning organisation Engender, said: “It’s perhaps an indicator of how far we have to go to achieve women’s equality that attaining 25 per cent board representation by women appears to have provoked such excitement.
“There is so much evidence that gender balance on boards drives better corporate performance (my emphasis) that companies who fail to appoint women are acting against their own best interests, and the interests of all of those who want to see better corporate citizens. It’s not quite time to cross quotas off the list of possible solutions.”
The Scottish Government has said it will launch a Partnership for Change pledge in 2015 to challenge all organisations to set a voluntary target for 50:50 gender balanced boards by 2020.
Ms Ritch really couldn’t be clearer. Not only is she claiming a causal link exists between increased female representation on boards and improved corporate performance – anyone in the business world, in which I worked for 30 years, would take that as meaning improved financial performance – but she claims there is ‘so much evidence’ for the link.
Campaign for Merit in Business provided evidence to House of Commons and House of Lords inquiries in 2012 of a causal link between artificially increasing female representation on boards and corporate financial decline. In late 2012 we published a short briefing paper with the full Abstracts of five longitudinal studies, all demonstrating the link.
We know of no evidence to support Ms Ritch’s claim, and we assume she’s employing the long-discredited feminist tactic in this area, misrepresenting correlation as causation. All the oft-cited reports and studies of which we’re aware (McKinsey, Credit Suisse, Reuters Thomson, Catalyst…) make it perfectly clear that the correlations in their reports aren’t evidence of causal links, and can’t even be taken to imply it.
Our public challenge of Ms Ritch is as follows, I’ll email her a link to this piece in a moment.
Ms Ritch, good evening. You claim to have ‘so much evidence’ of the existence of a causal link between higher female representation on boards, and improved corporate financial performance. We are unaware of any such evidence, despite having researched the subject over the past four years.
The leading academic proponent in the world for more women on boards is Professor Susan Vinnicombe of the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders. Nearly three years ago she admitted to a House of Lords inquiry that she knew of no such evidence – here.
I invite you to email me links to your evidence by 5pm next Friday, 29 May. Should you fail to do so, you will become our next ‘Lying Feminist of the Month’ award winner. Caroline Criado-Perez has won the award three times, the first time for making the same claim that you have. She admitted on the ITV programme ‘This Morning’, when I was seated on the same couch, that she’d lied – here. We invite you to admit likewise.