Do you think that women need positive discrimination to reach top positions?
In 2008, the Norwegian Government introduced a law which enforced that 40% of directors in any company must be female. The initiator of the idea argued that diversity creates wealth, the country could not afford to ignore female talent and also, Norway had a low employment rate. The owner of a Norwegian bank was accused of breaking the law by failing to appoint women to 40% of the directorship positions. He explained: “I work in a man’s world. I don’t come across many women and that’s the challenge”.
I would argue that in all cases, candidates should be given a job based on their knowledge and skills. To make this work, the best approach would be to hire a group of experts that would be responsible for the recruitment process, and not the company itself.
There are situations in which this approach might not solve the problem, as in industries such as gas, technology and oil, women have no experience and less interest. Involving women in these business areas can only be achieved over a long period of time. Free training discussions, internships, and several industry insights would be likely to encourage women to apply for these positions.
Another important area of discussion is whether women are not confident enough to apply for top positions, or whether they actually apply but do not get the job due to women stereotypes (no leadership skills, lack of experience, more family orientated). The answer to this dilemma could be somewhere in the middle of these extremes: some women have different values, they place family on top of their priority list and a directorship position would take up too much time. On the other hand, there are cases where men prefer to employ other men and this might happen because of stereotyping: men are better leaders and managers; they are more confident and straightforward, less emotional, etc.
Going back to the Norwegian law, why only 40% of directors should be female? Why not 50%? When enforcing a law that should increase the number of female directors, why not make it equal with the number of male directors? Men and women have different skills and values. Consequently, mixed boards could only benefit companies. A combination of male and female characteristics could only lead to different approaches on managing issues.
To conclude, positively discriminating women is not the best approach as this may lead to further discrimination: women need to feel confident that they got a job because they deserved it, not because of their gender. As far as I am concerned, in no cases would a woman comply with the situation of being seen as an outcast that does not deserve to be there by her male counterparts.
Find out more about positive discrimination from Jackie Brambles’s perspective :
What’s your view? Can you think of any solutions that would increase the number of women in directorship positions, without raising the problem of male discrimination?