How quotas and targets can improve gender equality in the workplace

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Source: Unsplash / Toa Heftiba.

Tina was convinced that she was the right person to win promotion to managerial level in a state public sector body. She had graduate degrees, years of experience and the respect of her colleagues, as well as a track record of success in her current role.

But she realized she didn’t stand a chance when she was overlooked for critical development training, and wasn’t surprised when a man won the managerial role.

Tina was pregnant – a fact the successful candidate did not have to worry about. She will never know if pregnancy is the reason she was not selected, but there is enough evidence to know that despite the ban on such discrimination, women still miss senior jobs. simply because they are women.

Too many people see their opportunities in life limited by outdated ideas about gender. And experiences like Tina’s will continue to happen unless we do something serious about it.

On March 31 of this year, the inauguration of Victoria Gender Equality Act came into force, empowering to finally solve this problem by shining the spotlight on inequalities in more than 300 public sector organizations.

The law places a positive duty on our public sector to do better, and it has teeth. Under the law, I have the authority to develop and set goals and quotas to bring more women into roles, especially in male-dominated sectors.

I know there are Victorians who see this talk about goals and quotas as a confrontation and maybe all a little ‘awake’, or just ‘the politically correct gone mad’.

My response to this is what we are trying to do to achieve fairness and overcome centuries of inequality and the new equality laws in Victoria allow us to energize that change.

I don’t apologize for that. No one would want their daughters, granddaughters, wives or sisters to be treated unfairly. And no one wants their sons, grandsons, brothers or husbands to miss a job just because it’s seen as stereotypical for women (like midwifery) or because they want to work part-time or flexibly to care for their children.

Gender equality goals and quotas work

There is enough evidence from Victoria and around the world to know that the goals and quotas work.

In 2015, the Victorian government set a target of 50% for all new board appointments because women were under-represented on boards. In five years, the proportion of women on the main boards of directors has increased from 39% to 55%.

Internationally, the majority of countries topping the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, such as Norway and Iceland, have successfully implemented targets and quotas to improve gender equality in leadership.

Norway has a minimum quota of 40% of representation of each sex in public companies. Iceland requires that the ratio of women to men appointed to government or municipal committees, councils and councils be not less than 40%. And Denmark demands an equal composition of men and women in certain committees, commissions and other public bodies.

Critics say goals and quotas simply tell women they’re not good enough while neglecting deserving men. Merit, they say, is what matters.

This is true, but people forget that merit is a social construct – and what constitutes ‘merit’ is usually inherently biased in favor of men in male-dominated industries and in most management and management roles. leadership.

There is plenty of evidence that merit often resembles the person who held the position before. So when you say you want the “best person for the job,” ask yourself if this is really true, or if you are subconsciously stereotyped.

These are not about women who lack merit – or who are not good enough. This is about removing inherent biases so that women can be seen on their merits and have a chance to get a job they are qualified for, rather than being ignored for being a woman.

It’s time to stop blaming women and look at the failure or the prejudices of the system.

Paid employment was designed for men, by men, when men had a full-time woman to cook, clean and care for them. As more women have entered the workforce the structure has not changed and we expect women to reorganize themselves to accommodate this when in fact it is time to reshape the workforce. system.

But imposing goals without cultural change will not work. There are no quick fixes, but the Commission now talks to public sector leaders every day to help them mainstream gender equality into their organizations.

The first step is to take stock of the current situation against which to measure improvement. Victorian organizations are due to submit workplace gender audits to me later in the year, which will give us absolute transparency and accountability with hard data on where we are now – and where we need to improve.

Once we have that data, we’ll look at where goals or quotas might contribute to change – but I want to be clear that these won’t be imposed without community consultation first.

Although the law applies to the public sector, I am confident that it will bring about changes beyond those of the private sector, because based on the current rate of change, gender equality will not be achieved until close. of a century. I am determined to accelerate this in Victoria and make our state a shining example to the rest of the country.

This article was first published by Women’s agenda.


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