Quotas, says Rosemary Squire, are the only solution to the continuing lack of women on boards. “I just think: do it,” the co-chief executive of Ambassador Theatre Group told the Financial Times. “We all know a business that has diversity around its board table is more creative and more profitable, so why don’t we do it? It’s nuts. And often we don’t do things until we’re told to, so just get on with it. Have the quotas. Do it.”
The point is about having diversity in the boardroom, Squire explains. “I honestly think that if around the table you have everyone the same it is really boring. You don’t get anyone with different ideas — they’ve got the same experience. So if you have a more diverse group of people working together that leads to more creative thinking.
“I also think as an entrepreneur that one of the tricks is to surround yourself with people who are actually better than you in different areas.”
For Squire, this is an argument borne out of painful experience: in a previous job, she was made redundant while on maternity leave. “It was completely mishandled and I thought I don’t want to be in a business that treats people like this; what a waste. If half the population in the UK — fortunately equally educated — have the same opportunities and the same ideas, the same creativity, what are you going to do? Ignore them? Lose them? What a waste; it’s crazy.”
Is a cure for cancer in the offing? Not quite yet, but there are promising signs, says David Hung, president and chief executive of Medivation, a biopharmaceutical company. He is careful to qualify his hopes, though. “I think it could still be a long time to find a cure. We don’t want to get patients’ hopes up beyond what the data would support,” he says. But the picture is promising: “We believe that the benefits that we are seeing right now are substantial and we are very excited about them, but we have to wait for the data to speak for themselves.”
Hung — like Squire — is also driven by personal experience. While in his third year of fellowship as an oncologist, having watched a patient of his die at the age of 28, “at that point it occurred to me that it would be difficult to spend the rest of my career giving patients drugs that still allowed [them] to die at such a young age from horrible diseases”.
“I’m in it for the long haul,” he adds. “I really want to make a substantial impact on medicine.”
I have seen the future and it is quiet. Very, very quiet. Apart from, that is, the sound of fingers tapping on keyboards and smartphones. The FT’s Twitter Q&A — #ftentrepreneurs — wound up this afternoon after an hour of questions on funding for businesses of all sizes.
The parting question was, “Are governments doing enough to encourage entrepreneurialism?” Entrepreneurs don’t think they are. Gigliola Aycardi Batista, executive vice-president of BodyTech (@gigio1969), tweeted “there is always room to do more even if they are doing something” while Lars Floe Nielsen, a founder of Sitecore (@ln_sitecore) said improvements could be made “by lowering entrepreneur and startup tax!”
For Gossy Ukanwoke, founder of BAU Research and Development (Nigeria’s answer to Mark Zuckerberg) (@gossyomega), the problem was more fundamental. “A lot more can be done in #Nigeria // We are late, so the government needs to do more quickly.”
This was a moment of rare consensus in an extremely lively — if almost entirely silent — debate. But while the noise levels in the room may have been low, governments should be prepared to listen when entrepreneurs — the ultimate creators of wealth — take to social media to find their voice.