Recently, I inadvertently ending up in a conversation with an angry bloke about quotas on boards and why women don’t get to the top. He was adamant it is because they don’t want to, nor are they qualified or competence enough to and if we introduced quotas we would end up with women not suitable or capable of the job in hand just to meet some stupid target! Phew, answer that one Diva! I am sure you know that I did!
However, my view on quotas has gone full circle. If you had asked me how I felt about them 10 years ago I would have been vehemently against such positive action for all the well reasoned arguments people use – it will upset the men and alienate them rather than get them on side; It will promote women not ready for the position and thus work against us as opposed to for us; it will be seen as tokenism and the women in question will not be taken seriously and so on, but today I see the situation very differently so why have I changed my mind?…
As a coach and innovator I recognise that some situations need a serious intervention to create dissonance with the status quo and frame breaking change. Getting women to their rightful place, sharing the decision-making process in the corporate, political, educational and legal arena is an example of frame breaking change and this level of change cannot be done incrementally, it demands a serious shift and serious shifts do not happen organically.
Sometimes we have to accept a short term change to achieve a permanent one and I think introducing quotas for a 30% female board representation is one of those. The quota only needs to be in place until the permanent change is embedded, but without it we are going to keep plodding along making little impact and giving the establishment more and more time to subvert the process.
We know it makes sense to have a more balanced boardroom, the business case is clear, over 80% of all consumer decisions are made by women, women make up over 50% of the population, girls outperform boys academically blah blah – the evidence is clear but and it’s a BIG but if we continue doing what we are doing this 30% target will get further and further away from us and what message does this send out to young girls? If they cannot see any women at the top why should they believe it is possible? Action speaks louder than words and if all we ever do is talk about it?…
For those token women out there that are at the top I salute you! You have worked hard and sacrificed much to get there but is that really the way it should be? Is that the message to our girls? Tokenism does not work, we need a posse of women or none, the pressure on the lone female is too much and one woman cannot be expected to represent her whole gender in every decision and move she makes!
In my opinion, we have to invade the top in groups if we are to impact the landscape, 30% is a start and to say the talent is not out there? Well do not even get me started on that one! The time for legislation is now, we need to be brave, stand up and be counted and know this is the right thing in the short term to get us what we want, what we deserve, what the next generation craves and what the western world needs – a more balanced view from the top.
I would love to hear your views on this, join the conversation please!