Again and again I hear that it is not useful to introduce women’s quotas.
The assumptions of defiers are that the introduction of quotas would result in more bureaucracy and the wrong instead of the qualified person would get the job, therefore not a person`s qualification and performance be the argument for the next career step, but the sex, and that the promotion of women only may not promote equality between the sexes.
I can understand these arguments well. But then, I wonder how gender equality in organizations can be developed in the 21st century in the long term and gender stereotypes can be abolished?
Personally, I am of the opinion that the introduction of (women`s) quotas makes possible a positive structural change in organizations.
Kanter (1977a) already focused in her study on organizational structures and their influence on individuals within organizations. It concluded that women are excluded from certain fields of activity and this exclusion can be traced back to patriarchal social structures, which are expressed in the form of obsolete gender stereotypes.
How people behave in organizations also depends on the structures in which they move. At the same time, the organizational structure can not change if women are not given the same access to positions of power as is given to their male counterparts. Men in positions of leadership have certain privileges, which they, though unconsciously, pass on to more like-minded (men) than to women. Alone sex-specific prejudices can prevent individuals from bringing a woman into a leadership position, as it is often the case with women that rear children. In the study, Kanter also shows that by increasing the proportion of women, gender stereotypes are degradable and gender equality is promoted. However, the quota must be at least 30% as a smaller quota has a counterproductive effect. The reason for this is that status women are striking because of their gender, and this fact can have a negative effect on the performance, the working climate and the team and thus no structural change takes place. Hence, the more likely the company structure can change, and the more the attitude of men (as well as of women themselves) towards the traditional female role changes, the more likely the gender of an individual can be behind its performance.
Therefore, I think it is important that we introduce quotas – both for men and for women – in order to achieve a long-term structural change.
When introducing the quotas, the process as such is particularly important to me. Politics and the economy often think too short-term because they strive to present fast solutions which are also cost-effective. But social problems can not be solved in short time. Human beings must adapt to new situations until they are perceived as self-evident by them.
For example, only in 1991, all Swiss women were given the right to vote. There was a great discussion about this at the time and the majority of the population voted against women`s right to vote in one canton. It was only through the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court that women today all have the same right to vote as men. We see men as well as women in politics today. What seems to us to be self-evident today, was criticized more than 20 years ago. This, too, was a process.
(Here a little impression: Die göttliche Ordnung – a Swiss movie)
If we are able to achieve women’s quotas on the executive level and in management boards, then we can perhaps achieve the same as in politics, where women do not form tokens or status women.