Santander Bank Executive Chair Ana Botin discussed the company’s decision to prioritize moving more women into senior leadership positions.
The retail banking company, which is based in Boston and owned by the Santander Group in Spain, recently committed to ensuring that one-third of leadership roles would be occupied by female employees. “We’re making a huge effort but we have to do it the right way,” Botin said in an interview with CNBC published Wednesday. “But we also have to accelerate and so we’re putting in place plans to actually make that happen faster.”
Among the plans include rotating female employees through roles “which tend to be occupied by men” such that the women are more likely to rise in the company. “Basically having some kind of rule or incentive,” Botin continued, “so that you move people around faster so that women can have experiences that allow them to get to the top.”
Increasing the percentage of females in leadership positions is a goal often pursued by companies devoted to diversity, equity, and inclusion, also known as DEI, as well as the environmental, social, and corporate governance movement, commonly known as ESG.
David Bahnsen, the founder of Manhattan-based wealth management firm The Bahnsen Group, told The Daily Wire that leadership quotas for females risk delegitimizing women who qualify for the roles by their own merit. “Why should a talented female executive be held in suspicion of being a forced hire when her talents and capabilities can speak for themselves?” he noted.
Santander nevertheless touted its female leadership quotas in a Wednesday press release meant to commemorate International Women’s Day; the firm has maintained between 40% and 60% of female representation on its board of directors for the past two years in accordance with previous ESG commitments, which also included financing the development of electric vehicles and mobilizing billions of euros in support of a transition toward renewable energy sources.
Proponents of female leadership quotas claim that firms which institute such policies tend to be more profitable, an assertion that Bahnsen and other skeptics dispute. “If there were such a connection, why not hire 100% females? It is a non-serious attempt performed in a non-serious matter,” he continued. “No one believes that profitability can be measured and assessed in a causative manner around things like gender. The very suggestion is sexist on its face.”
Critics of the ESG movement assert that the investment philosophy mingles political and social causes, such as diversifying company leadership with respect to race or sex, in a manner that compromises or distracts from profitability. ESG funds suffered amid last year’s underperformance among technology firms, which ESG managers tend to favor because of their emphasis on corporate social responsibility and internal workforce diversity, and overperformance among energy companies, which ESG managers tend to shirk because of their dislike for industries with heavy carbon emissions.
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Bahnsen concluded that firms that recruit and promote in accordance with the merit of the candidates will see the best results in the long run. “A company focused on hiring the best candidates, which in a world of only two genders will always feature some percentage of men and some percentage of women, will perform the best,” he said. “I am more and more convinced that these sorts of quota-based gender and race pronouncements are an attempt to pacify the critics of a market economy by appealing to a side hustle of the woke left. Companies that announce such intent and criteria are performing an overt act of marketing and pharisaism and nothing else.”