Women on boards - quotas or no quotas?
|What does Makaya Ntini have to do with |
women on boards? Read on and find out!
I still hold strongly to this position, for all the same reasons I outlined in that column.
However, there’s a new element of pseudo-feminism that has me a little confused. Quotas for women on boards.
Ok, before you all lose your collective mind, I am a big fan of women on boards! Honestly, I don’t see much difference to a woman being a company board member and a man being one.
In fact, my current employer has a female CEO and more female Directors than men. And you know what? It’s a pretty awesome business.
But I do have this little twinge of discomfort when I hear the phrase ‘quota’. I’ll give you an example.
Post-apartheid in South Africa, Government legislation decrees the RSA cricket team must always include one player with dark skin. Yes, it’s as simple as that.
Many hailed this as an important and necessary step to healing the rifts that were forged during the dark apartheid years.
This system worked great for the 90s and early 2000s, but it hit a decent snag in the mid-2000s.
The South African team was touring Australia and included their mandatory black player, Makhaya Ntini. The only problem was, Ntini was in the biggest form slump of his career.
This led to an unprecedented problem for South African officials. Ntini, by any other measure, should have been dropped from the team because he was playing terribly. There were players in the wings begging for a chance to be selected, but all of them were white skinned. This meant the selectors’ hands were tied because of the quota.
They simply couldn’t drop Ntini because they needed to have at least one black player on the team!
And surely this is the biggest argument against quotas for women on boards. The central tenant of feminism has always been that women and men should be treated equally. In fact, feminists have long argued that women should be treated as if they were identical to men.
So where does this notion of interfering regulation sit on people’s radars?
To be honest, I’m nowhere near qualified to answer. There’s probably a whole bunch of arguments in favour of quotas. And there’s a bunch of arguments against them too.
In fact, this very argument is being played out in the European Union right now. Viviane Reding, the European Union’s justice commissioner has famously said: “I don’t like quotas, but I like what quotas do.”
Maybe she has a point. But I can’t help but feel this is a little ‘tokenistic’. Surely the best answer to getting women on boards is to give more women the opportunity to apply and prove that they’re the best person for the job?
But interfering with the selection process because there’s this argument that women need artificial help in order to achieve this makes me a feel a little… uneasy.
What do you think though? Are quotas good or bad? And yes, this is a shameless attempt to get people to comment on my blog. Hurry up and do so, dammit!