Gender equality is important. Well, frankly, equality of all descriptions is critically important. So why would I be grumpy over the concept of a gender quota? Well. In my opinion, gender quotas don’t improve equality, they degrade it. Rather than hiring the best person for the job, agnostic of their details, people will hire someone based entirely on their gender. What’s more, other employees will be angry at the perceived fact any new female hires got an ‘easier ride’ during the application process. This doesn’t exactly help workplace harmony.
The focus must be put on turning upside down the root causes of such inequality like educational disparity, issues over re-entry to the workplace after childbirth, access to affordable childcare, work-life balance issues and so on.
In my own specialism, computer science, gender imbalance has always been an issue (well, at least after the first wave of programmers – most of whom were women) which may well stem from the fact that the industry has a reputation for being male dominated, driving away potential students. If we’re really to get big business and other industries to be more balanced, we need to focus on the entry paths into the industries.
Gender quotas don’t improve equality, they degrade it
Another issue is that positions on many boards are filled through progression. Women need to be able to progress through the ranks of middle management and they can’t do that if they are pushed back down after having a child. Women are still faced with the choice of family or career.
The fact the European Commission feels the need to impose a gender quota is symptomatic of a much larger, much more complex issue. To carry on the medical metaphor, gender imbalance is a chronic issue with many causes, and it isn’t something that can be cured with the administration of a brute force remedy like quotas.
Any publicly listed company better be prepared to shake up their boards - the women are in town.
A newly pushed for law by the European Commission will see a compulsory quota placed upon companies listed within Europe. It will ask for a minimum of 40% women representation on the non-executive director board with exemptions for smaller to medium sized companies (below 250 employees). The aim of the legislation is to improve gender representation as, currently, women only occupy 13.7% of the total board positions with listed companies across Europe.
Forced quotas tend to be, in my opinion, a positive. There are far too few women in powerful positions compared to their gender counterparts. It is the duty of liberal governance to promote a meritocracy but, as we all know, our world isn’t perfect and thus governments’ have a duty to promote those who face inequality. Therefore a states should support quotas as it is not only their philosophical duty, but also their moral duty.
It is the duty of liberal governance to promote a meritocracy
This is where my issues with this policy stems from. I dislike its enforcers it and the threshold for the quota is too high. The EU should not be legislating publicly listed companies on behalf of its members states, especially when states such as Sweden, the UK and Germany have all voiced concerns for quota policies. It is exactly this style of leadership that has lead to the UK leaving the EU.
Furthermore, the quota is too high. The policy should aim for a more reasonable figure such as 25% and then proceed to increase it as time goes on. This would allow companies the opportunity to invest in their employees and not undermine the quality of the positions women are elevated to.
Overall, the policy is needed but perhaps it’s a little too much a little too quickly and from the wrong establishment.
It’s well-known that gender equality within businesses is diabolical. In the UK, recent statistics show that the proportion of senior business roles held by women has dropped to 19%, whilst the share of UK businesses with no women in senior management is now 41%.
These figures are astonishing. How can Britain call itself a liberal, progressive democracy when there are still clear issues regarding gender equality? We’ve come a long way from traditional expectations, when many women didn’t have a choice: they were expected to marry, start a family, and stay at home. Whilst this path is still available, and is obviously great for anyone who chooses it, it’s clear that we’ve still got a long way to go in promoting women who wish to make their mark in the business world.
The European Commission’s quota is a step in the right direction
A classic argument as to why there are so few women in executive roles is that they lack the skills needed to head a business. Although this is obviously untrue, a lie made up by the masculine establishment to make themselves feel better about their clear discriminations - if we take it to be true then it only further highlights societal issues regarding gender. Women aren’t born lacking confidence but instead confidence is simply instilled into men more clearly. Our society still sees gender as a black and white issue, and unfortunately gender stereotypes still define us whether we like it or not.
The European Commission’s quota is a step in the right direction. The quota isn’t meant as a disguised discrimination, in which less-able women will gain jobs over more-qualified males. Instead, it will simply give women the confidence to apply for roles they previously thought they had no chance of getting. We don’t yet know if the quota will be effective, but hopefully it will push us towards a fairer world in which anyone can succeed, no matter what their gender is.