No Burkas in the Boardroom

I'm not a big fan of quotas, so I was surprised that I initially liked the idea that France wanted to increase the number of women on corporate boards.

Statistics showed that only nine-and-a-half percent of members of corporate boards were women. So, someone came up with the idea of legislating a quota, where women would make up 40 percent of corporate boards. I liked the idea of more women, but was queasy about the idea that corporations had to fulfill quotas. The boards would have to be 40 percent women in six years, or no male board members could be added.

Norway had similar legislation, and the number of women on boards in Norway has increased to over 30 percent. Sounds good, but I have no idea if those companies are doing better.

I lost my mixed feelings about legislating women and was stopped in my tracks by another headline of a story from France.

French back burka ban as only one MP votes against move to outlaw Islamic 'walking coffins'


One expert said the garments are seen as undermining women's rights and a threat to France's secular status. Others said women who covered themselves up were security threats. The proposed legislation, which is colloquially referred to as the anti-burka law, translates in English to "the bill to forbid concealing one's face in public."

One legislator stated it affects only 2,000 women in France. That sounds close to the number of women the board quota legislation would affect.

Neither of these issues should just dictate numbers to legislate what to wear or what voices should be heard.

We're not talking about banning film of Elvis shaking his hips or my classmates in school having the length of their mini-skirts measured. This isn't a frivolous statement about wardrobe. It's an all-out assault on religious freedom and women. It relates to the burkas and niqab worn by some of the most-religious women to conceal either all but their eyes or their identity completely.

Should the French be worried about security? Of course. Everyone is, and we all should be. But, to strike out at a small religious group of Muslim women in France in case someone planning to do harm will emulate their clothing is not the way to go. No one banned shoes or underwear on airplanes after the attempts by shoe or underwear bombers.

I believe corporate boards do need more women, but not through legislation. I do not believe that religious garments should be banned and a group of innocent people should be prevented from appearing as they wish and believe. I'll try to remember this the next time our Congress tries to pass some outrageous legislation. It will probably be soon.