Amid a debate in Germany over board gender quotas for women, Josef Ackermann, head of Germany's largest bank, Deutsche Bank, which has no women on its executive board, has generated controversy through statements that appointing women to its executive board would make it "prettier and more colourful." AP story here.
The story interests me because of the research I’ve been doing lately on board diversity, which includes interviews with corporate directors about what value, if any, they believe race and gender diversity brings to the boardroom. In our most recent piece on this, Dangerous Categories: Narratives of Corporate Board Diversity (well, the most recent that has been posted – we also have a forthcoming piece on Critical Mass that is not yet ready for prime time), we explore the difficulty our respondents appear to face in making the business case for board diversity without veering into the dangerous territory of race and gender stereotyping.
Although none of our respondents are so impolitic as to suggest that women make the boardroom prettier, many suggest that they make it warmer, more caring, and friendlier to “the little people.” Such generalizations, as we discuss, present difficulties of their own, as many of our respondents seem to recognize.
But the funniest thing I read on this story is not the retort from female German leaders (though those are funny and include such gems as telling Ackermann he should visit a flower meadow), but the comments to the story on the Telegraph. Before degenerating into sexism, sniping, and other silliness, as blog comment sections are wont to do, several funny comments were posted, including:
- Europe is not a serious place to do business.
-What's the fuss about? We ended up with Tony Blair as Prime Minister for 10 years because women thought he was attractive.
-I think the bank has more important things to worry about than a gender quota. Perhaps people should turn their focus back to the whole 'Europe's going bankrupt issue'
(HT: Tom Lin)