Quotas and women-only shortlists aren’t popular, but let’s face it, they work

Posted on May 2, 2011


Quotas and women-only shortlists aren’t popular, but let’s face it, they work | Suzanne Moore | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Feminism acts as a convenient bogeywoman. It can even be blamed for the wrath of the gods of the free market. So it can blamed for everything from unemployment (Willets) to busting up families (Duncan Smith). We are a busy lot, as this is apparently a full-time operation. But in destroying what Tories hold dear, I want them to point to our great “gains”, for when you look at the actual figures on the representation of women in public life for example, these gains are tiny…

As in politics, so too in business. Given cover by the establishment, it is now perfectly OK to talk about the terrible “risk” of appointing women to the boardroom. The risk, of course, being that they might get pregnant. Some women can be intelligent, but don’t worry yourselves about that. Simon Murray, chairman of Glencore, the largest commodities trader, floated at $60bn, offers us the benefit of his wisdom on women: “They have a tendency not to be so involved quite often, and they are not so ambitious in business as men because they’ve got better things to do.” Such as? “Bringing up children and all sorts of things.”…

Quotas, women-only shortlists and any form of positive discrimination are often disliked equally by men and women, but they work. The alternative is waiting for the great promised land of meritocracy to start. I’d give it time. We are in fact still operating in the realms of hundreds of years of male-only shortlists and men giving people that remind them of themselves (other men) promotions. Rwanda has a bigger proportion of women in its parliament then we do. At the current rate of success the Fawcett Society estimates it will take Labour 20 years to get to 50% female candidates, the Lib Dems 40 years and the Tories 400…

The idea that low-“calibre” women (Duncan Smith on Labour’s women–only shortlists) will push out presumably high-calibre men is everywhere. We certainly wouldn’t want a bunch of low-calibre guys running stuff, would we? I mean, look at the amazing results the high-calibre guys in the banking system have achieved.

emphasis mine.