I’ve just received a letter from John Cridland, the Director General of the CBI, replying to my letter of 4 February (see earlier post). Mr Cridland writes:
Dear Mr Buchanan,
Thank you for taking the time to write to me.
Business is committed to diversity at all levels, including at board level: diverse boards better represent their customers, shareholders and employees. This is why the CBI – with the full support of members – published ‘Room at the Top’. The report was extensively consulted on within our membership.
As you say, we are opposed to quotas, and are equally opposed to the notion of positive discrimination. We do recognise that people make their own life choices, which have implications for their careers.
At a time when business is doing everything it can to promote economic growth, companies are looking to make the most of talent – which is, at its heart, what the debate about diversity is, and should be, about.
I’ve responded with the following email:
Dear Mr Cridland,Thank you for your prompt response to my recent letter. A number of points in response:1. ‘Business is committed to diversity at all levels’. Is it? Not in my experience – those ‘commitments’ are strictly for PR purposes only. Given the option, businesses will always recruit and promote on the grounds of merit, not gender. It’s one of the fundamental building blocks of capitalism, and why capitalism works. Why are you campaigning to remove that option from your members?2. ‘Diverse boards better represent their customers, shareholders and employees’. What do you mean by ‘better’? We appear to have an acceptance here of deeply left-wing thinking, hardly common among your members’ directors. Boards should obviously ‘represent’ their shareholders, but why should they also ‘represent’ their customers and employees? The assertion, if accepted, can only lead to more women (without the necessary experience and expertise) being promoted to senior positions. This reveals the real thinking behind the assertion, which is the sort of comment I’d expect from feminist campaigning organisations such as The Fawcett Society and Catalyst, not from an employers’ organisation.3. You claim to be opposed to quotas and positive discrimination, yet these will inevitably result from initiatives such as the one you are pursuing. I don’t know of a single senior business person – male or female – who agrees with the CBI’s stated analysis on ‘women in the boardroom’. Those whose organisations are members of the CBI are unaware of any consultation having taken place with members. You state, ‘The report was extensively consulted on within our membership’. Could you please provide me with concrete details about this consultation exercise? Has anything been published on it, indicating your members’ views? If so, could I please have sight of the related document?I shall post the content of your letter and this email on my blog https://fightingfeminism.wordpress.com and I look forward to hearing from you before next Monday, 20 February, when I propose to issue a press release to all major British newspapers and current affairs magazines on our exchange. Thank you.Best wishes,
I shall post any further responses from John Cridland on this blog.