Quotas for women – why only in boardrooms?

Both the UK and the EU are considering the implementation of quotas for women in corporate boardrooms, something that Norway already did in 2004.

This raises obvious questions which have been discussed many times before: What if not enough women apply? What if those who apply aren’t qualified? What if not enough women want to work in a certain sector or at one company? Isn’t it enough to provide equal chances in education? Is it really the government’s business whom I employ in my private company? Might quotas actually remove motivation for women?

But I always have another question when I hear the demand for quotas for women in boardrooms or in parliaments: If you want equality enforced by quotas, why not in ALL jobs? Why not quotas for women in slaughterhouses, garbage collection and infantry? Why not in coal mines and on fish trawlers?

As long as I don’t hear these demands voiced with the same vigour, I know these feminists don’t want equality. They want a fast lane for their own careers.

(Es gibt eine deutsche Version dieses Artikels.)

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a journalist, a spy or a hobo.
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18 Responses to Quotas for women – why only in boardrooms?

  1. amnesicka says:

    The reason quotas are demanded in boardrooms and parliaments and not in garbage collection or slaughterhouses is because what we are looking for is being treated with dignity and to raise our voices to be noticed, so that we can help change the world we live in. So that in the future it won’t be that difficult for a man to understand that right now there’s a large gap between the rights of men and women, and hopefully it will not longer exist.

    So what if not of all the women that apply are qualified? I don’t believe in perfection, and I’m pretty sure that if someone is not qualified for the job is just not going to be elected, is not a matter of being a man or a woman. We all have flaws.

    As to your question:
    What if not enough women want to work in a certain sector or at one company? Isn’t it enough to provide equal chances in education?

    Having equal chances in education is just halfway of the equation. Yes, you have the opportunity of going to the university, and you can find your way on having a succesful career. But what happens when you find yourself on a company that is filled with people who are not the same as you, especially the ones hierarchically above you? They don’t think like you, they obviously don’t see you the same way another woman will see you. They don’t understimate you for being of another gender. They objectify you.

    What better way to get the message across that having the support from another human being that has to deal with the same kind of discrimination. All we are asking for is having the same amount of opportunities to speak up in places where it really matters what you have to say, where decisions are being taken. I don’t expect you to understand where I’m coming from. I guess that you will have to live at least one day as a woman.

  2. Xena says:

    If not enough women apply/are qualified I guess the people that set the quotas will also have to investigate how many women were interviewed for the position and whether or not the employer’s definition of “qualified” is fair.

    And yeah, in a free and democratic society it IS the government’s business to make sure that the principles of freedom and democracy apply to ALL. Not just the rich white guys.

    The rest of my comment is back at feministphilosophers.wordpress.com

    • I don’t think that a democratic and free society necessarily requires that the government tells ME whom to hire in MY company and pay with MY money.

      If this thought is continued, I could also be required to go to male and female hairdressers or use male and female cab drivers alternatingly.
      Or maybe even have female and male partners at equal quotas.

  3. Xena says:

    That’s a bad slippery slope, AM. There’s plenty of abuse to go around for low paid service industry workers. Those are jobs that ANYBODY with working limbs and decent eyesight can do.

    The whole point of setting quotas in boardrooms is to guarantee that those of us who spent an obscene amount of money on postsecondary education to acquire the skills to work in white collar jobs get a fair return for OUR investments. Too many women spend years and fortunes on their skills, and then end up waitressing, while nepotism and male hiring biases allow many male first year dropouts to rise to prominent positions.

    I wonder if this would be such a problem for you if you were REALLY hiring the most QUALIFIED people to run your business?

  4. Xena says:

    That’s an interesting challenge, AM. Many would love to. I’m sure a handful do start their own businesses. Investment capital’s not always easy for young people who have just finished school though.

    Where I am, many students go into debt AND pay out of pocket while they hold down part time jobs to pay for school. Lenders don’t usually give business start up loans to people with that kind of credit score.

    I’m not sure how the system works in the EU. You’re German, right?

  5. Xena says:

    Pardon me, I meant to say: Finding investment capital’s not always easy…

  6. Xena says:

    I understand your dismay, now. I found this article:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/18/world/europe/18iht-women.html

    Many German women still hold very traditional views regarding their duties to “Kinder, Kuche, Kirche.” (German food is something to be proud of, imo–World Class :-))
    The article discusses how most German women still leave the work force permanently when they start families. After the Wall came down in 1989, West German women who went to work for East German companies just disappeared when they had children. I can see how that thought would be distressing for you as an employer.

    Maybe you could look into the proposals to see if there are provisions concerning mandatory number of days/week that your female employees have to be working with the company. Everybody hates those crappy 4 hour 6 day shifts. But maybe you could start your female employees with 3 day work weeks, and if they decide to have children, it wouldn’t be such a painful compromise for either party to cut them back to 2 days/week (or not–depending on her circumstances) instead of seeing them leave permanently.

    They might even be willing to devote an entire post to it at feministphilosophers. I vaguely remember another post about women and tradition in Germany. Some of these academics actually work with the British and European governments. They may be able to offer suggestions as to how to meet the quotas, or give you contact information so you and other business owners can reach an easier compromise with the policymakers.

  7. I don’t understand what women complain about here in Europe or in America. They have all the chances in life that one can dream of.
    Maybe they should visit my home country, Iran, to realise how happy they are in comparison with women in other parts of the world.

    • Irena says:

      Since there is no Like-button here, I’m simply going to write “LIKE” :)

      You are so right!

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  11. curt rice says:

    Actually the Norwegian system isn’t about private companies, but about publicly traded ones, so it’s not an individual owner’s money. As I’m sure you know, publicly traded companies operate under many regulations. Having candidates of sufficient quality is course the red herring that comes up every time equality is discussed. It turns, however, that there’s nothing to it. There’s lots of documentation of the process from Norway and elsewhere; you might find books like _How women mean business_ and _Why women mean business_ useful. The bottom line, though, is that your bottom line will improve if you care about gender equality.

    • Publicly traded companies are also privately owned. They are just owned by several people and ownership changes more often. But it is still the shareholders’ company, nobody else’s.

    • About your argument that companies will be more profitable if they have more women on their boards, and not going into the correlation-causation fallacy: Don’t you agree that with my own company, I can choose not to increase my profit if I don’t want to? It’s not the government’s business how much profit I want to make.

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