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Half of women on boards like quotas but male colleagues say no

[NEW YORK] Half of women sitting on corporate boards of directors around the world support quota systems to fix stubborn gender imbalances in the boardroom, but less than 10 per cent of their male colleagues agree, said a study released this week.

Female directors are also more likely than men to approve of term limits and mandatory retirement ages to change corporate board membership, said the survey by Harvard Business School researchers, the WomenCorporateDirectors (WCD) Foundation and Spencer Stuart, a consulting firm.

Asked how they arrived in their board appointments, 39 per cent of women said their gender was a significant factor.

Just 1 per cent of men said the same, said the survey released on Wednesday.

Men and women were divided as well on the reasons that female board membership remains low, said the survey, which culled responses from more than 4,000 male and female directors from 60 nations.

Male directors, particularly older men, say there is a "lack of qualified female candidates," it said.

But female directors say diversity is not a board priority and traditional networks tend to be male-dominated, it said. "It's often hard to see an informal 'network' if you are in the middle of it, but you can see it very clearly when you're on the outside," WCD chairwoman Susan Stautberg said in a statement.

Forty-nine per cent of female directors supported quotas to promote board diversity, compared to 9 per cent of male directors.

Women younger than 55 were more likely than older women to support such quotas, the survey said.

Women hold one in eight corporate board seats worldwide, according to research by the global consulting firm Deloitte, which analyzed board membership in 49 nations.

Board quotas have been set up in several European nations, and a European Commission proposal seeks to make 40 per cent of corporate boards female in the next four years.

Among women, more than 40 per cent favor government regulations that require boards to disclose the steps they are taking to promote diversity, while just 14 per cent of male directors agree, the research by Harvard, WCD and Spencer Stuart found.

REUTERS