UHasselt research shows success of quotas for women

Summary

According to research done among CEOs and members of boards across Belgium, the introduction of a gender quota has not had the negative impact they expected

Assumptions smashed

The directors of stock market-listed companies still feel that the government shouldn’t have imposed quotas on the number of women in their board of directors, according to research released by Hasselt University (UHasselt). But the majority of them also admit that the quotas have led to many positive results. Researchers presented their findings at an international congress on equal opportunities in Antwerp this week.

A law from 2011 stipulates that at least one-third of the board of directors of listed companies in Belgium must be made up of women by 2017 – or 2019 depending on the size of the company. Government-funded enterprises had to achieve this minimum by 2012. 

Businesses were extremely critical of the quota regulation, saying that, because there were too few capable women, companies would simply put token women on their boards and that a small group of qualified women would be called on to serve on several boards.

Criticism has decreased sharply since the regulation was introduced, said UHasselt post-doctoral researcher Hannelore Roos, who interviewed 40 CEOs, chairs and both executive and independent members of boards of directors. Although three-quarters of the companies they represent don’t meet the requirement yet, a mentality change has clearly taken place, they said.

Roos’ research shows that companies are reflecting on their staffing policies much more than before. To find a new director, for instance, they are looking beyond the usual – mostly male – networks. They are also turning to other sectors, like the academic world, to find female candidates.

The research also demonstrated that CEOs and board members also feel that the common assumptions they held in 2011 about the lack of women candidates have turned out to not be the case.

Photo: Ingimage

Hasselt University

Established in the 1970s, Hasselt University (UHasselt) is one of Flanders’ youngest universities. With six faculties, seven research institutes and two campuses, it’s become an established education and research centre.
PhD - UHasselt awarded Flanders’ first-ever doctorate in architecture in 2011.
Partners - The university works with Maastricht University in the Netherlands on many research projects and degree programmes.
Jail time - The centrepiece of the university’s city campus is the renovated 19th-century prison that houses the law programme.
1 973

university was founded

5 000

students

30

million euro budget for new city campus