When it comes to standards set for individuals within a society it seems fairness is the best place to start. What is fair to all parties isn’t always what is desirable for all parties nor is it meant to paint a rosy colourful picture of what many believe a society should look like. All people being treated equally under the law seems to be fair, and when it comes to opportunities (professionally or otherwise) a similar standard can be set by judging individuals on their individual merit while putting aside societal, economic, or skin-deep attributes.
There is now, however, a concept that is antithetical to any true ideal of fairness and equality being thrown around called “equity.” Surely, you’ve heard the term as it has been parroted by feminists and leftists for quite some time now. The idea here is that equality of opportunity is not enough to make up for the structural and social disparities between the genders currently, and so there must be governmental or self-imposed regulations to assure a certain representation of women within an organization. This is to say there should be a mandated equal proportion of women to men represented everywhere which purely on face value may sound great but falls apart almost instantly once it is put under pressure.
This article is meant to showcase how the concept of equity through the use of quotas is belittling to women.
We know that discrimination is bad. That is basically the bedrock of the argument for gender quotas which lie with the assumption that women aren’t represented due to the outdated perspective of men in power who suppress women’s ability to thrive. In some industries this is true; for example, orchestras once held on average only 5% female musicians until blind interviews were put in place. Once decision makers hired musicians based purely on the music they heard knowing nothing of the person playing the instrument but their musical ability, representation jumped to over 30% female.
This is, however, representative of only one industry and doesn’t speak for the full labour market and society at large, not to mention the aforementioned example actually proves the opposite point many believe it makes. The Guardian published an OP-ED by Curtis Rice called “What the world’s best orchestras can teach us about gender discrimination” where he aptly points out a larger representation of women in orchestras when nothing other than their skills were evaluated. Curtis Rice, however, writes about gender equality frequently and released another article named “2 ways quotas for women raise quality” perhaps unaware that the conclusions of these two articles are contradictory. The first promotes the fact that hiring based on skill and aptitude is just, while the second asserts that a forced minimum representation raises the quality of work within an industry.
The truth of the matter is that, as it stands, there is a lack of proportion in gender when it comes to aptly skilled workers in certain industries and sexism plays far less of a role in this than many equity advocates will ever care to admit. When studies regarding the predisposition of men and women when it comes to areas of interests and interest in work/life balance, equity advocates cry sexism, essentially fighting evidence with feelings.
In Australia, for example, jobs are split pretty much equally between men and women as a whole, yet there are significant differences in the type of work men and women do that heavily back up the theories put forth regarding gender interests and pre-dispositions. For example, work that heavily involves interaction with other people, such as sales and community work, have a clear feminine majority while more technical and administrative work that involves more material things, such as technicians, have clear male majorities. Equity advocates will say the reason for this lack of representation in manual jobs is due to women’s lack of interest while claiming the lack of representation in spaces like tech and management are due to discrimination, but this clearly lacks cohesion.
What the data tells us is that women tend to enjoy more humanistic work while also putting great emphasis on work/life balance that leads to fewer hours worked. This is why when statistics regarding average pay between men and women are controlled for position, education, and hours worked, the pay-gap is reduced to the point of basically disappearing. It’s for this reason that Google recently found itself in hot water, as a multivariate analysis of male and female employees’ pay found strong discrepancies between the two, meaning that even when controlled for education, position, and hours worked, women were being paid significantly less on average.
This is where the concept of gender quotas and lower standards for women comes in. When it comes to proponents of total-statistical-gender-equity, the ethical difference between a multi-variate pay-gap and a general statistical pay-gap is null, and that governments and businesses must act to force a standardized across-the-board quota for the representation of women. Curiously enough, these female advocates are actually belittling and undermining women’s abilities in a drastic way.
Take for instance the action taken to increase the number of medals given to female soldiers in proportion to medals given to male soldiers in Australia, where the rules have made it so men have to serve for four years to be eligible while women only have to serve for two. This sends the message that some soldiers are less capable of serving based solely on their gender and that the field must be tipped in their favour. To be clear, men and women are equally capable of reaching four years of military service and to set a lower bar for females gives the message not only that women are less capable, but that their awards are less valuable.
Similarly, the push for gender quotas in business throws into question women’s abilities to enter the workforce on their own merit, setting lower standards for women as compared to men seeking the same positions. This is not to say there is no potential merit to a higher representation of women in certain industries, however, expediting the process to reach the end goal of higher representation quickly through any means necessary is doing no one any favours. Instead of choosing to force organizations to hire large groups of people based on their gender, perhaps programs that teach young male and female students about various skills, including humanistic and technological ones, could inspire more women to become interested in tech of their own volition and subsequently acquire the necessary skills needed to enter the field.
To sum up, the opposition to gender quotas does not mean the denial of any type of discrimination nor does it deny social inequalities. The point trying to be made is that the equal opportunity to be properly educated in the field of one’s choosing, combined with a standard of merit-based hiring is the fairest way to achieve a realistic level of equality.
Deputy Editor, The Unshackled
Host of the Front and Center Podcast