Quotas

Over on Women’s Views on News, I just read this article. To summarise: the piece is basically stating that leading advisorary groups such as Board Watch, feel that legislation is the way forward, if the number of women sitting in UK boardrooms is to rise to 25% by 2015 – the target laid out by Lord Davies, former UK government minister, and now a member of the House of Lords.  According to the article, around 65% of the women surveyed agreed with this.  Apparently even David Cameron is considering an introduction of quotas, meaning that companies will be obligated to have a set number of women in leading positions.  It seems a great many are in favour of this movement.

I, however, am not.  And here’s why.   Legislation isn’t the answer.  Like money, you can’t just throw a bunch of laws at a problem and then expect it to miraculously solve itself.  Laws don’t change attitudes.  The government can force companies to take in a certain number of women, strict rules to enforce the Equal Pay Act can be set in place , they can even push to make sure that female job candidates are automatically chosen over equally qualified male candidates, but at the end of the day, they cannot change the fact that a great many men still think that women are inferior.  They cannot change sexist attitudes. They cannot change the fact that men seem to be born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and are from the day forth subliminal told that they will acheive greatness, a luxury which many little girls don’t have. They cannot the fact that some men still think its okay to joke about rape, the ultimate symbol discrimination and supremacists attitudes.

It may take longer for women to gain equality without them but I firmly believe that by introducing quotas, all the government are doing is trying to introduce a quick fix, one which may disguise the crack in society, but it won’t fix the broken peices underneath. Think for a moment of America’s Affirmative Action programmes.  Did they succeed in gaining people of ethnic minority jobs? Some would argue, yes.  Did they eliminate racism in America? No.  Was there a great deal of controversy? Yes.  Ultimately, did those of ethnic minority feel grateful and pleased by the introduction of Affirmative Action plans, which are actually a step behind quotes? No.  In fact, many felt insulted and patronised.  Ethnic minority members felt that they had the ability to gain jobs for themselves.  They did not need the pain and embarrassment which came with getting a ‘leg up’, and the feeling that they only held a position because of the colour of their skin.  Would quotas not do the same to women? Would that not lead women in boardrooms to suffer from constant paranoia over the quality of their skills?  As well as possible ridicule from sexist male colleagues over the fact that they were only in the job at all because of their sex?  Personally, I think quotas could be detrimental to the gaining of equality for woman. The longer, harder route is sometimes the only viable option.

I do see the positives to quotas. There is clearly an argument for the fact that they would increase female employment and put woman in a better financial position, gaining them respect and influence. But the fact men still disrespect woman, are still paid more, etc. will not change, and companies will still value men more highly than woman. Sure, there are businesses out there who believe in equality and strive to create an environment without prejudice. I admire them greatly. But sadly, those places are a minority. It will take drastic action to boost their numbers until equality outweighs discrimination. And I just don’t think quotas fit the bill. They may put women around a boardroom table, but they will not launch them threw that glass ceiling.

I would be really interested to know whether people agreed or now want to tear me to pieces. All comments are welcome.

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