Daren Rubins: CEO of PHD
Daren Rubins: CEO of PHD
A view from Daren Rubins

Business should focus on feminine values, not quotas

At the risk of being banned from Wacl events in perpetuity, it's time to face the truth: female equality in the workplace is the wrong start point.

If you haven’t heard, Germany is to introduce statutory quotas of women in board positions (to 30 per cent), following in the footsteps of Norway, Italy and the Netherlands. I think there’s a better way – and that’s focusing on culture and values.

Our industry employs smart people who have choices and are looking for company values that reflect their own. They’re looking for inclusivity, emotional intelligence and warmth – attributes more likely to be associated with women. As the business author John Gerzema noted, the most essential traits in effective leadership are patience, expressiveness, intuition, flexibility and empathy. Modern businesses should be embracing feminine traits not because they have to but because they are critical to their success.

We all know some successful women in the media described as "more blokey than the men". That’s because women had to compete in a man’s world. So, despite businesses congratulating themselves for promoting women, it didn’t provide the diversity that was (and still is) so desperately needed.

'Modern businesses should be embracing feminine traits because they are critical to their success'

It has been proven many times that organisations with a higher percentage of women perform better. This isn’t just because women are, like for like, more capable than men (although that’s also true). It’s because these organisations embrace feminine qualities, which in turn attracts more women.

Everyone talks incessantly about disruption, about technology, about machines. All of these things are a permanent feature in our world, but so are people, teams and talent. They need nurturing and they want their organisations to care and to share, not because they have to but because they want to. We call it the human touch.

So the big question is: what comes first? Creating an environment where women will (not might) succeed? Or employing women in sufficient numbers, which hopefully produces more rounded values?

I’d like to make a case for the former. More than 30 per cent of PHD’s board are female and there is no discrepancy in pay. As a barometer of how our people feel about us, for the second consecutive year we have finished in the top 20 in The Sunday Times’ 100 Best Companies To Work For – higher than any agency of any discipline.

The areas we have scored highest in centre on how we care for and develop our talent. But rather than setting quotas, we know that instilling feminine values is a game-changer and that 30 per cent is still suspiciously low.

Daren Rubins is the chief executive of PHD