Gender quotas are discriminatory
No doubt: Getting more women into top corporate positions is an important goal. But the idea of forcing companies to fulfill quotas is the wrong way to reach that goal. Quotas are a bad idea: They don’t improve the current situation. And they are discriminatory to both, men and women.
Those supporting gender quotas almost always name the Norwegian model as a positive example – even GES-experts do so. In Norway, 40 percent of corporate board members are by law required to be women. This policy is unbelievably naive though. Even in large countries like Germany or the US, women haven’t had the same opportunities to gain corporate governance and management skills in the past. Far more men than women have a university-degree in business, pursued MBA programs or received on-the-job management training, so there are far more men than women in the talent pool. Being a relatively small country such as Norway, the talent pool of qualified women is even smaller. The chances that the women who get selected may be less qualified than their male counterparts are quite high. The result of this policy is pointed out in a study published by the University of Michigan: The quota law “led to decreases in firm value because new directors did not have the same monitoring or advising capabilities of the other directors before the imposed change”.
This is quite a surprise, since those supporting gender quotas also often claim that more women in top corporate positions would be the best way to pursue better business. If women really were better managers, then how come Norway’s policy didn’t improve corporate performance? Glorifying women’s business sense doesn’t serve the cause of equality – it just creates expectations that can’t be met. The gender doesn’t have any influence on the qualifications as managers. It’s a matter of education and experience.
Also, quotas are an instrument of discrimination, in either way. If a black candidate doesn’t get selected because of being black, this is discriminatory, of course. If a female candidate doesn’t get selected because of being a woman – no doubt that this is discriminatory as well. So it is also obviously discriminatory if a male candidate doesn’t get selected because of being a man. And this will inevitably happen when imposing gender quotas.
But quotas are also discriminatory to those who can benefit from them individually: Positive discrimination is discrimination as well. So it is also a case of discrimination, if a female candidate gets selected because of being a woman. The British TV presenter Kat Akingbade spoke out what it means to those selected upon such criteria. “Positive discrimination robs an individual of drive and self-motivation”, she said after finding out that she had gotten her dream job because she was black. “It completely undermines the achievements and abilities of the hard-working and truly gifted. If employers are pressed to select candidates on the basis of race, sex or gender to diversify the workplace, they will care less about a candidate’s ability, and eventually one ‘protected characteristic’ will blur into another.”
Gender quotas treat women as if they don’t have the qualities to reach the top by themselves. They make it mandatory to select women on the basis of their gender – this does them a disservice. Women, just like men, should be chosen on the basis of their individual qualities and abilities. The gender shouldn’t play a role at all.
Women have all chances to catch up by themselves: They make up the majority of university graduates today and they have more or less closed the pay gap. The imbalances that still exist are due to the fact that women tend to take a timeout of one year or more when having children. So what we need is better support for women who want to combine their careers and their family lives. We need better public childcare and more part-time jobs. But we don’t need gender quotas.