Gender quotas are not the answer to any problem

David Kelly

Gender quotas in the workplace or anywhere are not the right solution.

Gender quotas are sexist and cynical. They are predicated on the idea that the only reason women are underrepresented in a certain field is because of gender. Not only that, they assume that women need quotas to enter these fields, which is incredibly patronising, in my estimation.

Let’s analyse the gender quota argument for a moment. The argument appears to be as follows: women are underrepresented in a certain field. This is then assumed to be a consequence of gender inequality, a symptom of patriarchal oppression, perhaps. To combat this inequality, this field need to be parameterised with a certain proportion of female employees through gender quotas. This argument can be broken down rather simply.

First, why are women underrepresented in certain fields? Let’s examine the STEM field as a modern case study. Women are underrepresented in STEM fields, which many label as problematic.

The proponents of this ideology claim that unfounded notions such as stereotype threat, implicit bias and microaggressions contribute to the lack of female representation in STEM fields. Conveniently, these notions are never used to explain why men are generally less represented in the humanities and social sciences.

If not patriarchal oppression, why are women underrepresented in the STEM fields? An examination of the Scandinavian countries is a rather illuminating example. These countries have done more to equalise the playing field for men and women than any other countries. What are the results?

Women are underrepresented in engineering, yet vastly overrepresented in nursing. This indicates that most women choose not to enter engineering, opting instead for disciplines such as nursing. As the socio-cultural factors have been flattened, biological factors are more pronounced.

In the Scandinavian countries, the personality differences between men and women appear to be higher. Now, it’s important to remember that men and women are more alike than different with regards to personality, but the differences matter, and manifest, particularly in these countries.

They manifest in interest. In general, the men tend to be interested in occupations that involve working with things (engineering, mechanics) and abstract ideas (scientific theory) while women prefer working with and directly contributing to the wellbeing of others (physician, teacher).

The mere fact that these differences in interest maximise in Scandinavian countries proves that they are not culturally constructed. These are cross cultural studies with thousands of subjects. This begs the question: why is this problematic?

It can be argued that occupations with STEM are generally paid more than the life sciences. It can be argued that there are more job opportunities in the STEM fields. However, these arguments remove individual interest from the equation, prioritising capital interest and societal demand.

Another argument often levied in support of gender quotas is that the top positions of employment within a certain field are often held by men. Again, this is assumed to be a symptom of patriarchal oppression and systemic sexism.

Let’s assume that in most Western countries, rising the ranks of most employment structures is mostly a consequence of work ethic and competence. Let’s then assume that women are equal to men in these attributes.

Now, let’s take the recent academia example. Women make up 50 per cent of lecturer positions but only 24 per cent of senior lecturer positions. What is the difference between these positions? Perhaps commitment to the occupation across time and work ethic.

Assuming female lecturers are as competent as male lecturers, the potential reason they are not in more senior positions is because they are not dedicating a significantly high proportion of their time to their careers.

Is this problematic? Only if you assume that a career takes priority in one’s life. Are there other aspects of one’s life that can be considered important? Family, perhaps. Women tend to have more interest in the wellbeing of people, after all. Is that wrong?

According to the proponents of gender quotas, it is.

David Kelly 

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