Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Call for feedback: Community Board seats/Reports/Research on quotas to increase diversity

After having organized many conversations where the topic of quotas became prominent, the Facilitation team has detected a lack of information about the use of quotas to increase diversity in organizations. Here is some research the facilitation team has compiled.

This collection of information has been produced by the Facilitation team independently from the Board, based on the feedback received during the first half of the Call for feedback. There is no current consensus about quotas, and this is not to suggest that this will be the approach embraced.

Suggestions of articles and links about quotas are welcome from the community. The community is welcome to include links and content from articles by editing the wiki page. The facilitation team also understands that the community may not have the time to do this. If this is the case and you find an article or link, the facilitation team would be glad to review and summarize on the wiki page.

Quotas in societyEdit

Here are some examples of gender quotas in action:

Norway, Iceland, Spain, Finland, and France all have gender quotas of 40% women on corporate boards of publicly listed companies while the Netherlands, Italy, and Belgium have quotas of 30-33%. Germany, India, Israel, and Pakistan also have legislated quotas for women in such roles.

  • About why quotas have been used as a strategy to correct diversity:
    • ”Why has this strategy been so eagerly embraced by Europe? Because it works." [1]
    • A comparative table with the percentages of women directors by country
    • Some expressed the process of achieving equitable, diverse representation would be a long, slow journey without quotas.” One woman director put it this way: “It has not happened organically in my lifetime.”[2]
    • (Interestingly, no American man interviewed for an article was in favor of quotas, although they acknowledged progress toward gender diversity was slow.)[2]

About the impact of quotasEdit

  • "Having three or more women on the board increases productivity and a greater diversity of ideas"[3]
  • Quotas and diversity goals resulted in a more professional and formal approach to Board selection. One former CEO (a man) in Norway said:

“In my opinion, what happened in Norway when affirmative action was introduced was that the entire recruitment process of boards was sharpened. The requirements were clarified, the election committee’s responsibility was acknowledged. And the focus on the composition of the boards in general was improved. With that law, the importance of the board was upgraded, and the composition of the board. That is positive. And it might also be because you don’t have to go far back before you see that the recruitment to boards and board members was heavily influenced by a sort of networking mentality, and the close network that you belonged to yourself.”[2]

A Harvard study of board directors noted that most boards consider very few diverse individuals as candidates, but that as board diversity went up, so did the number of candidates. When filling open board seats, surveyed board members considered almost no candidates who were racial/ethnic minorities (0.2 candidates per open vacancy, on average), and fewer total candidates (2.9, on average). [4]

  • But boards with two or more directors who were racial/ethnic minorities considered an average of 1.0 racial/ethnic minority candidate and 3.9 candidates for each open board seat.[4]
  • “Workplace diversity can bring out the best in teams by promoting creativity, encouraging greater consideration of alternatives, and providing access to a wider range of information and perspectives. The numerous benefits also extend to employee recruitment and retention.” [4]
  • Studies have shown it will take 30 years to get at least 30% representation of women on non-profit boards in the United States.[5]
  • “White directors are therefore more likely to control leadership roles that manage the board pipeline, such as the chair of the nomination/governance committee.” [4]
  • “Careful self-reflection — followed by concrete change — on director recruitment procedures is urgently needed, especially in all-white boardrooms.”[4]

Other resourcesEdit


  1. Natividad, Irene. "'There is no denying the effectiveness of quotas'" (PDF). Directors & Boards (Third Quarter 2010): 23–25. Retrieved 3 March 2021. 
  2. a b c Wiersema, Margarethe; Mors, Marie Louise. "What Board Directors Really Think of Gender Quotas". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 3 March 2021. 
  3. "Women on Boards and the Human Capital Connection," 2018, MSCI.
  4. a b c d e Cheng, J. Yo-Jud; Groysberg, Boris; Healy, Paul M. "Why Do Boards Have So Few Black Directors?". Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 3 March 2021. 
  5. Oyinlade, A. Olu (2013-12-16). "Affirmative Action Support in an Organization: A Test of Three Demographic Models". Sage Open (January 2013). doi:10.1177/2158244013516156. Retrieved 3 March 2021.