J4MB challenges Vera Baird QC and Professor Susan Vinnicombe

We have been quite busy on the public challenges front. We start with Vera Baird QC, a gender feminist and former Labour MP in the same mould as Harriet Harman:
Baird was the Labour MP for Redcar from 2001 – 2010, and was appointed solicitor general in 2007. She’s now the (elected) Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, a post with an income of £80,000 p.a. From what we can see on her website her concerns about the victims of domestic violence appear to be strictly limited to women and children. She promised Sunderland women she’d tackle domestic violence if elected:
She issued this document before her election: Tackling domestic violence against women and girls. From the document, with gender-specific text in bold type:

Now Vera Baird has promised a step change in the way the police force will deal with the problem if she is elected in November. Ms Baird has announced plans to introduce a pilot project in Northumbria which will seek to prevent domestic abuse incidents occurring by using active monitoring and management of known serial perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence.
The proposal is part of five priorities to address the problem of violence against women and girls, which will be adopted by Labour Police & Crime Commissioners across the UK:
– Develop and roll out an integrated local action plan to tackle violence against women and girls – ensuring that VAWG is also prioritised in the local crime and policing plan and appointing a lead specialist, responsible for delivering the plan;
– Ensure specialist domestic violence and public protection units within the police service continue to be supported – whilst also striving to maintain the important existing network of independent advisers and advocates to women survivors of violence;
– Deliver specialist training in dealing with domestic and sexual violence, and stalking – as well as other forms of violence against women and girls, for neighbourhood police officers, for those in specialist protection units and for those involved in commissioning services for the survivors of violence;
– Support early intervention to tackle violence against women and girls – valuing the importance of working with schools, local authorities and community-based organisations to change attitudes and behaviour;
– Pilot preventative policing projects in areas including Northumbria– to promote the active monitoring and management of serial perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence, and stalking…
Vera Baird said:
“I know from speaking to women’s group and refuges the challenge they face in dealing with this problem, especially in light of the cuts in funding from the Tory-led government. As Police & Crime Commissioner I would ensure an absolute commitment to increasing convictions and driving down incidences of violence against women and children.”

We’ve issued the following challenge to Ms Baird:

Almost 300 studies and reports from around the world show that women are as physically aggressive or more aggressive than men towards their intimate partners:
Given the large numbers of male victims of domestic violence in Northumbria, what commitment will you be making – if any – to increase the number of convictions of female perpetrators of domestic violence, thereby driving down the incidences of violence against men and children?

We turn to Professor Susan Vinnicombe, the world’s foremost academic proponent of increasing female representation in boardrooms. I read a full-page article in a recent Daily Mail with mounting disbelief. It was written by a young journalist, Ruth Sunderland, and it’s about the financial returns in 2013 of FTSE100 and FTSE350 companies with female chief executives:
The article is the usual mix of celebrating women who are successes, whilst downplaying women who are failures. Of the four FTSE100 female CEOs, only one can be reasonably said to have delivered a strong performance in 2013 – Carolyn McCall of EasyJet. Let’s consider the three others:
Imperial Tobacco – shares down 8%.
Burberry – shares up 13%, in line with the FTSE100 average.
Royal Mail – shares up 78% but to quote Ms Sunderland, ‘The huge hike in the Royal Mail price owes far more to the fact that shares were woefully underpriced than to the acumen of Moya Greene.’
So, just one of the four female FTSE100 CEOs performed more strongly than the average male FTSE100 CEO in 2013. The article’s downplaying of female failure is breathtaking:

Cynthia Carroll left the top position at mining giant Anglo American earlier this year after disappointing investors and has been replaced by a man.

“Disappointing investors?” They lost their shirts. In the course of Cynthia Carroll’s five-year tenure at Anglo American £9 BILLION was wiped off the company’s value. Here is a link to our piece on the matter, along with further information on the performances of other female CEOs.
Which brings us to Susan Vinnicombe of the Cranfield International Centre for Women Leaders. She’s long been the world’s leading academic advocate for more women on boards. In the summer of 2012 we asked a House of Lords inquiry (in our written evidence) to ask Susan Vinnicombe whether a causal link existed between increasing female representation on boards, and enhanced corporate financial performance. Here is our blog piece on the matter.
Vinnicombe’s exact words at the inquiry:

Thirdly, there has been quite a push in the past – indeed, we ourselves have engaged in such research – to look at the relationship between having women on corporate boards and financial performance. We do not subscribe to this research. We have shared it with chairmen and they do not think that it makes sense. We agree that it does not make sense. You cannot correlate two or three women on a massive corporate board with a return on investment, return on equity, turnover or profits. We have dropped such research in the past five years and I am pleased to say that Catalyst, which claims to have done a ground-breaking study on this in the US, officially dropped this line of argument last September.

From the Daily Mail article:

Much as the feminist lobby might wish to claim a victory for woman-power, however, it is impossible to prove that female directors are likely to deliver better returns than men.

It is impossible to prove that, but for one simple reason. The nearest we have to proof of the impact of increasing the proportion of female directors is five longitudinal studies, all of which show corporate financial performance declining. Here is our short briefing paper with the studies’ full Abstracts.
Back to the article:

Professor Susan Vinnicombe of the Cranfield University School of Management, which compiles the annual Female FTSE Board Report, says: ‘It is very difficult to say that superior performance is due to a boss being a woman. But there is mounting research that suggests having women on the board is associated with stronger financial performance. This is not quite the same as saying women are the cause of the performance, but there is a strong correlation.’

We get so tired of this sort of tortured language:

‘It is very difficult to say…’
‘… suggests having women on the board is associated with stronger financial performance’
‘This is not quite the same as saying women are the cause of the performance…’

It’s not remotely the same. Most readers of the article will reasonably assume correlation is an indicator of causation, but all the reports and studies we’ve seen presenting correlations (McKinsey, Credit Suisse, Reuters Thomson, Catalyst…) say that not only is correlation not an indicator of causation, but it shouldn’t be taken to even infer it.
Given that Campaign for Merit in Business has been around for over 18 months, it was long overdue for us to publicly challenge Susan Vinnicombe. So yesterday we made the following two challenges:

We challenge you to stop misleading people into believing correlations between increased female representation on boards and enhanced financial performance are, or may be, indicative of a beneficial gender effect, thereby justifying in some people’s minds (not ours) the government’s policy direction of pressuring companies to increase the number of women on their boards, through the threat of legislated gender quotas.
We challenge you to critique and discredit the five longitudinal studies which show that increasing female representation on corporate boards leads on average to corporate financial decline.

So why are there (on average) positive correlations between increasing female representation on boards, and enhanced financial performance? In our view it’s because strongly performing companies can better afford to indulge in some social engineering, and in some sectors where women make up the majority of customers (e.g. the retail sector) it’s also good PR.
The vast majority of newly-appointed female directors in major British companies share something in common with the vast majority of existing female directors – they’re appointed as non-executive directors. This is a gravy train for shameless middle-class women, few of whom would have any hope of reaching major corporate boardrooms on the grounds of effort, experience and expertise – in short, on merit. It’s the workplace equivalent of women seeking to marry rich men. When they do marry them, we don’t say the women caused the men to become rich, do we?

Recommended Content

%d bloggers like this: