Quotas: a demeaning solution to workplace discrimination?

Feminism and quotas have one main thing in common: by their definitions, both shouldn’t have to exist. Yet, as with feminism, which is working to create equality and inclusivity between the sexes in the political, social, cultural and economic spheres, quotas start with stellar intent and act to readjust leadership into a more representative mix of backgrounds. Quotas are so important in enabling women to have more of a say in leadership, which allows the decisions made to more reflective of the best interests of a business’ customer base, or in Durham, a society’s members. Although their effectiveness in decision-making is yet to be fully quantified, the idea of quotas is more controversial – are they demeaning for women who want to be rewarded based on merit alone, and do they actually work in readjusting social norms?

Although female role models in positions of seniority are paramount in encouraging young women to persevere with male-dominated sectors, I also would like to know that I am not achieving on the sole basis of my gender. Women work hard, and thus deserve to be rewarded for their efforts, but the idea that they might be promoted because of the very idea that they are a woman is demeaning too. A society of true equality, where men and women can work alongside each other and achieve based on merit alone, is one long envisioned, but we also need to confront the realities and support those neglected in policies of positive discrimination. My concern with creating more equal policy is that all women need to be considered, including those that aren’t in the workplace. The wider impacts on whoever might be demoted to allow a woman to be elevated presents a more pressing reality: a large proportion of women, perhaps due to generational social norms, are still dependent on these people.

Feminism in the UK has had a history marked by differing struggles each dictated by changing social norms, Rt Hon. Nicky Morgan MP stated at the DUS on Friday that she believes that quotas are a first but necessary step towards readjusting social norms, despite the uncomfortable positive discrimination that they enforce. Positive discrimination is still a form of discrimination and results in sectors of society missing out, yet these may be viewed as a prerequisite for change. Much of the change that the UK workplace needs to see cannot be directly legislated against, and perhaps placing women, albeit artificially, in positions of authority and admiration, will encourage younger women within the workplace to not be disheartened by their gender.

Photograph bvi4092 via Flickr

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