Mike's Minute: Gender quotas are artificial nonsense

Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Wed, 12 Sep 2018, 9:47AM

Mike's Minute: Gender quotas are artificial nonsense

Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Wed, 12 Sep 2018, 9:47AM

Susan Peterson and California have something in common.

Susan Peterson is a board member of five boards, including a bank and a major digital success story.

California is a state that teeters on the brink of going bust, is desperately liberal, but nevertheless is one of the larger economies in the world all by itself, far less as being part of America.

The commonality comes in women on boards.

Peterson is now open to the idea of quotas. California is going to fine companies that don’t have them.

Both are making a mistake and are indisputably wrong.

To be fair to Peterson, she is less wrong than California, who are spectacularly wrong.

Let's start with the facts. One, there aren't a lot of women on boards. Two, many in business would like to see more women on boards. Three, we are getting better at getting women on boards. Four, but not spectacularly so.

Then we get to the debatable stuff, is it not possible that women as a percentage of the population may not want to be on boards? Therefore are not overly well represented?

Is it not possible that business has become a bit fixated with numerical equality? And therefore are not necessarily representing the wider world, far less womankind?

Is it not possible the Susan Petersons of this world show that if you want to be on a board, you can?

Is it not possible that for women, in general, this country has all the examples you need to show that basically, all work is open to women, if women want it?

From the Governor General, to Prime Minister, to any level of Cabinet, to any level of the judiciary, to any level of business.

And then armed with all of that, can we not at least, in part, argue that we don’t actually have an issue unless you want to become fixated with one? And one of the worst things you can do is take the role of women and insult them by introducing artificiality in the form of quotas?

Here's your example, you have a gap on the board. But the quota says it’s a woman's turn.

You have three applicants, all good but one is the star.

One is the one you want, that will make the difference to your company, that will add experience, a track record you feel you badly need.

But he's a bloke.

What do you do? Let the obvious choice go, and take a female?

Or do you do the right thing?

And if you take the woman does she know she's part of a quota? And if she does, how does that make her feel?

How is her presence dealt with in a room where everyone knows she came in a contest of three, second or third.

Life is not and should not be like that.

The same way Māori language should not be compulsory. We don’t advance the lot of women by insulting them with a condescending hand up.

Neither by quota nor by fine.