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Blog Post #2! 9/28/2016

The Presence of Women on Corporate Boards

by Vidhi Shah

Corporate boards are the ultimate decision makers. “The boardroom is where strategic decisions are made, governance applied[,] and risk overseen.”[1] These individuals have the responsibility to make informed decisions for the proper and profitable functioning of a corporation. It is imperative that boards are made up of “competent [high-caliber] individuals who together offer a mix of skills, experiences[,] and backgrounds.”[2] These different perspectives are key to succeeding in the increasingly global market.

One perspective many corporate boards are missing out on is the female perspective. Research conducted by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that sixty percent of the companies had no female board members, fifty percent had no female top executives, and more than ninety-five percent did not have a female Chief Executive Officer.[3] The report found that “companies where women accounted for at least 30% of their executives typically had higher profits than those that had less female representation in top manager roles.”[4] Also, a high representation of women on boards “translates into bringing a broader perspective to strategy and contributing a diverse set of experiences and backgrounds when making decisions.”[5] The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that if complete gender parity is achieved, the global output will be increased “by more than one-quarter relative to a business-as-usual scenario.”[6]

Companies statistically perform better with stronger female participation.[7] Further, “[w]omen on the board are more likely to reduce company expenditure because they prefer to use cooperation and collaboration over directly throwing money at the problem.”[8] Women provide unique perspectives on company-related matters.[9] They are also better decision makers as they “are more inclined to ask questions [and] more likely to bring up their concerns, which can be a good thing in a lot of situations.”[10]

While the percentage of women on corporate board seats has doubled over the past few years, it is a far cry from equal representation.[11] “Gender-balanced boards cannot only better represent shareholders, but also better connect with the investor community, employees or the communities in which they operate — all translating into the financial well-being of the company.”[12] In conclusion, companies who make it a point to have strong female representation on their corporate boards have an edge on competition who fail to take those same steps.

[1] Lord Davies of Abersoch, Women on Boards, GOV. OF U.K. (Feb. 2011), https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/31480/11-745-women-on-boards.pdf.

[2] Id.

[3] Marcus Noland, Tyler Moran, and Barbara Kotschwar, Is Gender Diversity Profitable? Evidence from a Global Survey, PETERSON INST. FOR INT’L ECON. (Feb. 2016), https://piie.com/publications/wp/wp16-3.pdf.

[4] Jeanne Sahadi, Stunning Lack of Women in Corporate Leadership Roles Worldwide, CNN MONEY (Feb. 8, 2016), http://money.cnn.com/2016/02/08/pf/women-corporate-leadership/.

[5] Cassia Peralta, Better Representation for Better Boards, WHARTON MAGAZINE (Dec. 24, 2015), http://whartonmagazine.com/blogs/better-representation-for-better-boards/.

[6] Noland et. al., supra note 3.

[7] AJ Agrawal, 6 Reasons Why You Need Women on Your Corporate Board, THE HUFFINGTON POST (May 18, 2016, 3:41 PM), http://www.huffingtonpost.com/aj-agrawal/6-reasons-why-you-need-wo_b_10029190.html.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] See Noland et. al., supra note 3.

[12] Peralta, supra note 5.

_________________________________________________________________

First Official WRLR Blog Post!

Beginning with 2016, the Women’s Rights Law Reporter will be uploading regular blogs written by Associate Editors. The inaugural posting is by Vidhi Shah. Be sure to keep an eye out for weekly articles!


9/13/2016: Freedom of Choice: The Burkini Ban

by  Vidhi Shah

What exactly constitutes as a swimsuit? Apparently in France, it does not include a burkini, or “a full-body swimsuit that covers everything except the face, hands and feet.”[1] A rule banning the burkini was first passed in Cannes and subsequently followed by other French towns, including Corsica and Nice, “citing a possible link to Islamic extremism.”[2]

The terrorist attack that occurred in Nice on Bastille Day played a big role in the towns issuing the burkini bans. The order specifically notes that, “[b]eachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order.”[3] The question remains whether this order is an appropriate response. Over 80 people died in Nice and, as John-Henry Westen of LifeSiteNews commented, “rather than crackdown on Islamic terror cells within the country, [the government chose] to strip women of their right to dress according to their views on modesty.”[4] Instead of developing laws to fight terrorists, France’s highest administrative court has been debating the implementation of the rule that women are not allowed to be “too covered” up as they relax on the French Riviera!

The order lays down that, “[a]ccess to beaches and for swimming is banned to any person wearing improper clothes that are not respectful of good morals and secularism.”[5] This rule fails to clarify exactly what quantifies as good morals and secularism. By targeting the burkini, the French officials seem to have defined good morals and secularism to not be associated with Islam. The Prime Minister of France, Mr. Manuel Valls, was quoted as saying that the burkini is “the expression of a political project, a counter-society, based notably on the enslavement of women.”[6] Many women do not feel this wardrobe choice is being pressed on them and argue that their choice to represent their religion and dress as they choose is being taken away from them with this new order.

There has been a mindless pursuit over the “proper” dressing of the female sex since the beginning of time. If it’s too little or too short then “she was asking for it.” Now, if it’s too covering or “affiliated with a particular religion,” that is not acceptable either. Maybe people feel uncomfortable in bikinis and swimsuits because of their own body image perceptions. In a society that praises “thin is in,” it is not unreasonable to believe that many women would opt for a more covering option to avoid feeling judged and “body-shamed.”

One should not have to abandon their religious sentiments because certain terror groups happen to follow the same religion. The burkini, apart from being highly useful at permitting Muslim women feel comfortable on the beach while still adhering to their religious ideals, is just simply a really great beachwear alternative for many women who are self-conscious of their bodies.

The French courts, calling the ban unconstitutional, overturned it in most of the thirty French towns that tried to ban the burkini on their beaches this past summer. [7] The ban was also suspended by the highest administrative court, “concluding that it had insulted ‘fundamental freedoms’ including[,] the ‘freedom to come and go, the freedom of conscience and personal liberty.'”[8] “But, a recent poll showed that more than 60% of French people supported the burkini bans.”[9] 

The burkini ban may have been implemented to promote secularism but its timing and method of application, along with the statements of some French politicians, have made it seem like the main goal was to target a specific religious group.  

 

[1] France Islam: Valls Slams New York Times Report On Burkini Ban, BBC NEWS (Sept. 6, 2016), http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-37283844.

[2] Burkini, WIKIPEDIA, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burkini#Controversy (last visited Sept. 8, 2016).

[3] Marta Cooper, Citing Terrorism, The French Mayor Of Cannes Has Banned Muslim Women From Wearing “Burkini” Swimwear, QUARTZ (Aug. 12, 2016),  http://qz.com/757070/citing-terrorism-the-french-mayor-of-cannes-has-banned-muslim-women-from-wearing-burkini-swimwear/.

[4] Marcia Segelstein, The Irony of Burkini Bans, NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER (Sept. 1, 2016), http://www.ncregister.com/blog/segelstein/the-irony-of-burkini-bans.

[5] Id.

[6] Cynthia Kroet, Manuel Valls: Burkini ‘Not CompatibleWith French Values, POLITCO (Aug. 25, 2016, 4:44 PM), http://www.politico.eu/article/manuel-valls-burkini-not-compatible-with-french-values/.

[7] Eleanor Beardsley, Beach Season Winds Down, But Burkini Debate Rages On In France (Sept. 7, 2016, 5:07 AM), http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/09/07/492926635/beach-season-winds-down-but-burkini-debate-rages-on-in-france.

[8] Segelstein, supra note 4.

[9] Beardsley, supra note 7.

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