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Debate: Quotas for women in corporate boards

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Are quotas for the number of women on corporate boards a good idea?

Background and context

The main clash in this debate is if the percentage of educated women should equal the percentage of women in top positions by imposing quotas favoring female workers.

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Affirmative action: Are these quotas justifiable?

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Pro

  • Sending the right message. These quotas help offset natural discrimination women have to face at the workplace (viewed as future mothers and thus have lower chance of being promoted, have lower salaries although they occupy the same positions as men[1]) because these quotas in effect promote equality between the sexes.
  • Providing a chance women never had. Gender quotas help women break the glass ceiling and aim for top positions that were previously mostly held by men. By this affirmative action we are only providing equal opportunity to previously disadvantaged sex.


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Con

  • Affirmative action equals discrimination. Not only that any discrimination is inherently unjust, but also the fact that these quotas would disadvantage more qualified men over less qualified women who just happen to be in the right place at the right time is everything but justifiable.


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Women: Would women benefit from these quotas?

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Pro

  • Giving the right incentives. Such quotas not only help women break the glass ceiling, but through that they also give women incentives to educate themselves further and apply for the top positions as they will not be assessed on the basis of their sex, but rather on the basis of their abilities.



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Con

  • Unearned job does not benefit women. These quotas would put women in an undesirable position for two major reasons:
a) Women themselves would be aware of the fact that they got their job thanks to a law, not thanks to their skills and knowledge, which could undermine their self-esteem.
b) Other employees (male) would feel inferior and discriminated against, which could mean hostility towards female employees.
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Companies: Would companies benefit from these quotas?

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Pro

  • More varied points of view. Given that women have a different way of approaching problems and dealing with crises, "female factor" could contribute to better-informed or better-thought-through decisions.
  • Women possess different skills than men. Women are generally better at communicating with people or considering various ways to address certain issues, which makes them ideal work partners for men in corporate boards.
  • Enhanced competition. Due to quotas, jobs in corporate boards will become more scarce (at least for male workers), which would enhance competition. Increased competition leads to high-quality applicants promoted, which in turn benefits the company as a whole, as motivated employees equal an increase in productivity (and subsequently an increase in output).
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Con

  • Natural selection of employees. Without quotas, companies can freely choose their employees and thereby employ people most suitable for a given position. If there are less women in corporate boards, it not because they are discriminated against, but merely because there were clearly better male candidates.
  • Wrong incentives for male employees. Quotas favoring female workers could easily backfire as male workers would not only feel discriminated against, but they would also be unmotivated to work hard as they would be in effect barred from promotion due to this affirmative action.
  • Wrong incentives for female employees. These quotas create moral hazard by sending a message "you will be promoted because you are a woman, not because of your skills". This in effect disincentives hard work, further education, etc.
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Skills and knowledge: Are women educated and skilled enough to lead?

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Pro

  • Equality in education. There is no reason why women should be less effective or less skilled leaders as they can attend exactly the same universities as men and get exactly the same degree for the same work.
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Con

  • Women lack certain leadership skills. Men are more natural leaders as they tend to be more aggressive, decide more quickly and are willing to do carry out even tough policies.

See also

External links and resources

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