Richard Branson backs quotas for female directors

Virgin Group chairman Sir Richard Branson has thrown his weight behind government-mandated quotas for female directors, saying this morning that he is pushing to have the quotas put in place across the Virgin Group.

Speaking at a Business Chicks breakfast in Melbourne he said he supported the corporate governance model used in Norway, where government legislation decrees that 40% of board members must be female.

“I’ve certainly been pushing Virgin to follow that and proactively do it,” Branson said.

“Unless there is some intervention to push it (more female directors), inertia stays.”

The idea of quotas has gained support in recent years in Australia from prominent female leaders including company director Margaret Jackson and Governor General Quentin Bryce.

The Labor Government this year promised to conduct an audit of female participation on boards and in executive positions in 2013 to determine whether quotas are necessary.

The Australian Securities Exchange and the Australian Institute of Company Directors are pushing hard to try to boost female participation at top levels of business, with latest research suggesting that female directors account for fewer than 10% of board members of ASX 200 companies.

Branson said Virgin Group was encouraging its managers to explore flexible working options such as job sharing, part-time work, unpaid leave and working from home.

He says as an entrepreneur who has worked from home all his life he appreciates the benefits of spending more time with family.

“We’ve still got to get it right in our companies but I think other companies should think hard about it too,” he says.