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Spot the ass in this picture… or tips for company Chairs on how NOT to attract talented women to your business

So you know that apart from being The SheEO, I’m also a farmer and I breed small donkeys which are loads of fun and very cute, like this one born at the farm last week:


 A lot of people ask me “why donkeys?” and my preferred response is that while donkeys may technically be asses, they’re a nice change from the asses I occasionally come across in my work.  Like this one who is absolutely unchallenged in winning the very first sphinxx Ass of the Week Award:


Yes this “ass” is Simon Murray who was hand picked as the brand new Chair of the world’s largestcommodities trader, Glencore.  Murray was appointed to facilitate the $60bn flotation of Glencore on the FTSE 100 index and I say he’s an ass for his recent comments in The Sunday Telegraph that young women were a risk to hire because they get married and become pregnant.

Murray is 71 and based in Hong Kong where he ran Hutchison Whampoa, the conglomerate that once owned the Orange mobile phone company. Although he hasn’t lived in the UK for 50 years, it seems he has an opinion on the idea of quotas for women in British boardrooms, and he’s not a supporter:

* * *

“Women in the boardroom? Terrific,” he says. “Why not? Always welcome. But why make a special case out of it? Why tell everybody you’ve got to have X number of women in the boardroom?”

“Women are quite as intelligent as men. They have a tendency not to be so involved quite often and they’re not so ambitious in business as men because they’ve better things to do. Quite often they like bringing up their children and all sorts of other things.

“All these things have unintended consequences. Pregnant ladies have nine months off. Do you think that means that when I rush out, what I’m absolutely desperate to have is young women who are about to get married in my company, and that I really need them on board because I know they’re going to get pregnant and they’re going to go off for nine months?”

* * *

OK so here’s a tip for Murray: quotas or not, I’m pretty sure you won’t need to worry about the “risk” of women taking 9 months off in this outrageous child rearing rort that offends you so.  I mean, which woman in her right mind would be even remotely interested in working for an organisation who’s chairman (1) holds such archaic views and (2) is happy to share them in a newspaper interview?

By the way I’m sure I’m not alone in my view of Murray and I’ve no doubt that many men – as well as women – would find his comments as outdated, outspoken and straight out offensive as I do.  Just not the men and women in the follow up commentary in The Guardian, it seems, where a level of “normalcy” has been applied to Murray’s comments by all manner of folk.

And that’s one of the reasons why quotas really are an intervention of last resort.  Yes quotas are a blunt instrument that will drive an outcome; but their ability to create cultural change and leadership commitment towards gender balance are questionable. 

On the other hand though and with role models like Murray leading the debate, is there any real alternative?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.


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