Gender quotas are often misconstrued as they invoke emotional rather than rational responses

March 24, 2016 by George Wigmore

Gender quotas are often misconstrued as they invoke emotional rather than rational responses according to the first major review of the literature carried out by academics at City University London and Kelley School of Business, Indiana University.

The new paper, which is published in Business Ethics Quarterly, also shows that the current research on gender quotas is confused and often just descriptive.

Gender quotas are a highly topical issue in the business world, with 15 countries now having adopted gender board quotas and a further 17 implementing some sort of voluntary measures, but they are often seen as controversial.

Speaking about the study, co-author Dr Ruth Sealy, Senior Lecturer in Organisational Psychology at City University London, said:

"Gender quotas are often misconstrued as undemocratic and discriminatory - usually invoking emotional rather than rational responses - but can also be considered a very rational 'last response' to an intractable problem of in the upper echelons of the corporate world."

Despite 40 years of equal opportunities policies and more than two decades of government and organisation initiatives, women are still seriously underrepresented on corporate boards and face significant barriers to career progression. In the UK, women currently account for 26% of FTSE 100 board members and still less than 10% of executive directors.

To investigate these tensions in the literature, the authors reviewed more than 120 articles, book chapters, white papers and working papers from over 50 scholars globally, from a diversity of fields including ethics, law, management and psychology.

Dr Sealy said: "The goal of our paper was reviewing existing literature, enlightening and advancing theoretical debates for and against quotas. What we found is that the academic evidence on quotas is mostly descriptive and often conflicting. We highlight three areas of tension and conflict when looking at quotas: around motivations for board gender quotas, the legitimacy of quotas, and the outcomes of quotas.

"These all bring up ethical issues and questions about the role of business and organisations in society. Quotas are a solution to address the ethical issue of gender inequality on boards, but are usually met with huge resistance as they offend our belief in meritocracy. But what is interesting is how refuting the use of quotas has allowed the use of gender targets across organisations to become acceptable and normalised within the business world. So many of our largest organisations are publicly announcing targets at board level and below – it's a real sign of progress."

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not rated yet Mar 24, 2016
"Gender quotas are often misconstrued as undemocratic and discriminatory

That's because they are. Quotas don't address the underlying issue of prejudice and public attitudes on women, nor do they attempt to ask whether women themselves even want to be 50/50 involved in absolutely everything, and instead simply force decisions down on organizations and individual people. How the quotas are implemented in practice also differs from the theory, and are prone to favoring women instead of equalizing opportunity - especially in education.

It's the same sort of misguided attempt at micromanaging society as gender-neutral kindergardens where kids are forced to play with the same toys regardless of sex.
not rated yet Mar 24, 2016
To remove gender bias the applicant's gender as well as race and religion should be redacted from the applications given to the reviewing board. If the balance of the resulting employees is skewed then this reflects the skewing of the quality or quantity of applicants of a particular type and not the skewing of those who are deciding on which applicants to employ.

The board only needs to see the report of face-to-face interviews that describe the applicants general attitude, appearance (dress sense) and other such qualities as are relevant to available positions but not their race, religion or gender.
not rated yet Mar 27, 2016
The board only needs to see the report of face-to-face interviews that describe the applicants general attitude, appearance (dress sense) and other such qualities as are relevant to available positions but not their race, religion or gender.

That is still subject to the bias of the interviewer.

And how many businesses even have a "board"? In small and medium size companies you often get interviewed by your direct manager you'll be working under.
not rated yet Mar 27, 2016
Quotas assume that there are equal numbers of equally qualified males and females for each profession. Is it reasonable to be forced to hire a less qualified person in order to fill a quota? Should Hooters be forced to hire male waiters. Should the The Rocketts be forced to hire male dancers? Some jobs require the physical strength that most women do not posses. Should firefighters be hired on the basis of quotas? The real problem with quotas is that standards have to be lowered when the quotas cannot be met and we wind up with a less qualified work force.
not rated yet Mar 30, 2016
Small businesses are not so concerned with gender bias as they don't have enough employees to show a trend.

Many small businesses also use employment agencies to advise them on potential employees and these can be chosen from profiles.

My suggestion would make a contribution.

Also to consider is how many female employees do you need to hire to get the same amount of productivity as male employees? Considering that male employees don't get pregnant or want to stay at home with the babies you need to hire more to cover the same work load.

I knew a lot of medical students in the 80s as I dated one (was qualified for two years). Of the females, all got married, took years off for kids and almost all were working part time by their mid 30s to 40s.

The same number of doctors in proportion to population are qualifying each year but as the gender bias equilibrated we in Australia suffered an ever increasing doctor shortage due to the female's time outs & part time careers.

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