Cultural experiences and funny musings by two twenty-somethings living abroad
A few days ago, Germany just passed a law where at least 30% of all senior figures in businesses must be female starting from 2016. Germany now joins just a handful of countries where gender quota laws are in force in an attempt to narrow the gender imbalance in high-level management in business. Some hail this quota system as ground-breaking, if long overdue, when it comes to bringing gender-equality to the workplace, something almost all believe to be a good thing for work and society.
The question is though, do we really need a gender quota? After all, the current trend shows that more and more women are taking on senior roles in businesses and organisations anyway. Additionally, there should be more emphasis on employing the most competent people, not the people who happened to be born female (or male for that matter). Equality is all well and good, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there’ll be an even gender split when it comes to managing companies. In fact, most of the companies that Jasper has worked for have been led predominantly by females. If governments want to take the line on equality, should this mean then that there should be a male quota for businesses overwhelmingly led by women?
Whilst gender quotas may compensate for a general gender imbalance at managerial levels, it is a measure that gives preference to women solely by virtue being female – it would be incredibly unfair on a male candidate, who may have been the best person for a particular job, to not get it simply because the company is forced to employ more women. Equally, might it not feel somewhat demeaning to a female candidate who became successful simply for being female rather than actually being the best qualified person for the job? And not only that, it may actually discredit the skillful female candidates in the eyes of others, simply because it may be perceived that their success was gained on the back of the fact that they are just female.
This law could also prove to be counter-productive for companies that don’t employ many women generally. Under laws set in Germany, it means that many managerial roles could be left unfilled and that could be crippling for a company unable to employ suitable female candidates from within and attract talented females externally. Even for established companies, experience has shown that in Norway, where they have had the gender quota in place for a while now, performance levels have dropped due to companies having to launch big rapid recruitment drives so that they would comply with the law in time and many of those candidates found themselves under-trained when they got the job, meaning that they couldn’t carry out their tasks effectively. Is this what Germany needs when the economy is already threatening to go back into recession?
Of course, women should be able to get the same opportunities as men and there should be more women in senior roles, but using a gender quota doesn’t seem be the right way to do it. It is ultimately a form of discrimination – positive discrimination perhaps, but still discrimination – and it is a system that could disadvantage the talented in society – both men and women.