No Need for Affirmative Action? Let’s Not Kid Ourselves

Gavelandscaless I recently read an article about Norwegian legislation requiring all company boards to be made up of 40% women, in the Sunday Times, the question was posed as to what would be the reception to such a move for affirmative action in Britain. The general consensus here was that professional women want to be treated as equals to men – and so no special legislation was necessary. While I can empathise with that point of view, we have had supposed "equal treatment" for decades now and women’s representation at board level still flounders at single digit figures. I appreciate women want to be given such positions on their own merit and treated as equals but must point out that most men do not use merit alone when acquiring senior positions. The Old Boy’s Network has ensured that the players within that system have been given favours and it seems a bit too egalitarian for my taste for women to claim they want to build their careers without any help. The truth is, a purely egalitarian model still does not exist and is certainly not a career model followed by most successful men who have enjoyed promotions from their brothers-in-law, deals from their university friends, insider news from their schoolboy chums – and understand the meaning of "you scratch my back, I will scratch yours". I have no problem asking women to participate on an "even playing field", but lets not forget just how slanted that field remains.  One suggestion is to ask companies that would like to put more women on the board to look internally and look for those whose talent has not been fully utilised and whose potential could be nurtured – thereby eliminating the need for quotas altogether. What do you think?

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  • Hannah

    Actually, I don’t think an egalitarian playing field will ever exist. Women need to nurture and make more of their connections as opposed to getting their heads down and asking to be judged purely on what they achieve. That’s what will help. We tend to think we can achieve it all on our own. Why can’t we have an Old Girls Network in the future? Having a more even playing field is a laudable objective, but I’m not sure it’s how we humans operate.

  • Nancy

    I agree with  you, things are still very skewed. Women now make up over half the work force, more women are graduating college and graduate school, but even so, not much of a dent has been made  at upper management positions where men still dominate. Even with the fact that there are more qualified well educated young women than young men, women still earn less than their male coworkers.