Women in Business: Still lonely at the top

by The Economist, July 21st, 2011.´

Several governments are threatening to impose quotas for women in the boardroom. This is a bad idea.

In François Ozon’s latest film, “Potiche”, Catherine Deneuve (pictured) plays a trophy wife, a potiche, who spends her days jogging in a scarlet jumpsuit, making breakfast for her cantankerous husband and writing poetry perched on a sofa. But then her husband, the boss of an umbrella factory, is taken hostage by striking workers. Ms Deneuve takes over the factory and charms the workers into returning to work. She jazzes up the products and generally proves that anything a man can do, a woman can do better.

The film was set in 1977, when the only women in a typical Western boardroom were serving the coffee. Times have changed. These days no one doubts that women can run companies: think of Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo, Carol Bartz at Yahoo! or Ursula Burns at Xerox. Sheryl Sandberg, the number two at Facebook, is more widely applauded than her young male boss, Mark Zuckerberg (see article).

Yet the number of female bosses of large firms remains stubbornly small. Not a single one on France’s CAC 40 share index or on Germany’s DAX index is run by a woman. In America, only 15 chief executives of Fortune 500 companies are women. Britain does better, but not much: five of the FTSE-100 firms have female bosses. (continue reading… )

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