Men’s Quota in Swiss Day-Care Centers

A few months ago, a friend of mine who applied for a job as a social worker told me that her male competitor eventually got the job and she did not. The reason was that there were apparently not enough male social workers and so they chose him.
The argument seemed logical to us, because why should only women`s quota be supported?

A few weeks later, the Swiss magazine “annabelle” published an article about the introduction of men’s quotas in day-care centers : prejudices and obsolete role models are to be abolished. In the end of it Markus Theunert, head of the national Mencare Switzerland program, said:

I am surprised and delighted that there is hardly any question of why it needs more men – but only how to do it.” (English translation)

It seems as if the idea of the introduction of a men’s quota in day-care centers doesn`t provoke much of a negative response. I think of the study of Janice D. Yoder (1991) which refers to Kanters Tokenism (1977). In the study, it is mentioned that the negative consequences of tokenism seem to exist only for members of a social category with a lower status compared to the majority (for example gender or ethnicity) whereas the upper-status tokens (male compared to female) often quickly reach the authoritarian position (1991: 53). It is also said that men in male-dominated professions have more to lose if women penetrate those fields than when men enter female-dominated jobs (1991: 56). Because the higher the employment rate of men is -and therefore also the more stereotyped-, the better is the salary and the social recognition of that profession, when compared to other, predominantly feminine professions (1991: 56).

In my view, it appears quite plausible that, according to Markus Theunert, the introduction of a men’s quota in day-care centers doesn`t constitute such a disputable matter as the introduction of a women’s quota. As stated in Yoders study, women in day-care centers do not have to fear that they will be paid less nor that the profession will lose its social recognition – on the contrary, it could be said that the increasing number of men may even help gaining recognition for the profession and result in being paid better. But this thesis is merely an idea which could be examined for a longer time. But the arguments for the introduction of men’s and women’s quotas differ drastically. The Mencare organization lists the following arguments for the introduction of men’s quotas in day-care centers:

– Gender equality
– Reduction of prejudices
– Change of value – away from obsolete role images
– For the development of children

However, if it is a question of the introduction of women’s quotas, the main focus is primarily on the economic advantages for companies, as shown (for example) by the Swiss employers’ association:

– Mixed teams are more innovative and contribute significantly to company success (4)
– The discovery of female talents as a success factor (7)
– Due to a lack of labor (demographic change) (4)

Even though different arguments are used for the same goal, I believe that the introduction of male and female quotas is useful in the long term in order to achieve a structural change and to change our social system with all gender-specific stereotypes, albeit I have a different way of thinking about the introduction of women’s quotas – one that is based less on economic performance, but rather more on gender equality.


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