New figures showing the number of female directors in British boardrooms has reached its highest level suggest some of our largest companies are embracing the business benefits of diversity. With more organisations recognising the associated benefits of a diverse workforce, mandatory quotas could become redundant, says Hays, the leading recruiting expert.

In the latest Hays Journal, the recruiter provides insight on how diversity in the workforce has an increasingly global relevance.

Charles Logan, Director at Hays, says, “Gender quotas are very much the public face of the diversity agenda and it is positive to see Britain is making progress. But many remain sceptical about the effectiveness of such quotas when it comes to driving performance, change and share value.

“Some organisations fear that a box-ticking approach to recruitment is not compatible with the aim of acquiring the very best talent. Others say that set quotas harm the notion of promotion on merit, can lead to ‘tokenism’ and can simply result in the same women taking on more boardroom roles, rather than bringing in new blood at higher levels. Yet the perception remains that not enough is done to promote gender diversity.

“Inclusion must continue to go beyond gender box-ticking. If employers are actively encouraged to seek out candidates who will bring different perspectives and ways of problem-solving to the mix, the net result would be that more women – as well as people from more varied cultural backgrounds – will hold senior roles. This brings the focus to the benefits diversity can bring a business.

“The business case is compelling – in March a global poll of 241 companies by law firm Eversheds concluded that there was a clear correlation between smaller, more diverse and more independent boardrooms and share price performance and company success.

“A genuine engagement and willingness to embrace diversity and inclusion when it comes to recruitment and promotion leads to the business benefit of different ways of thinking. But sometimes, it can require a shove from above, such as quotas, to encourage employers to make diversity reality.”