Published by Inge Geerdens, on 07/03/2014
It’s International Women’s Day on Saturday. Ever since its first edition in 1911, it celebrates every step forward towards gender equality. This year the focus is on Inspiring Change, meaning we should “encourage advocacy for women’s advancement everywhere in every way. It calls for challenging the status quo for women’s equality and vigilance inspiring positive change.”
Personally, I’ve always regretted that we need to have an International Women’s Day. I believe men and women are created equal and everyone deserves a fair chance in life and love. I’m sure you agree. But I’m not a fool either. In the real world discrimination is a harsh reality and we need to address it.
In Europe, it has for instance resulted in a fierce debate on quota for gender equality in business. I’m not convinced installing quota for every business is the right approach.
I’m in favor of quota in the public sector, as I believe any government should reflect the people it serves and represents. That’s called a democracy. And perhaps quota might be a good idea too for a few very traditional multinational corporations. Apparently they need help to change their old habits. But quota makes no sense whatsoever in a small business like mine. I’m not focused on balancing genders, race or whatever. I need the best possible candidate for the job. I’m more than willing to consider everyone. I even need to consider everyone.
Besides, regardless of its tone, someone always pays the bill for ‘positive discrimination’. Quota may help women to break through the glass ceiling. But if it’s merely a numbers game, I’m not convinced we will have the best candidate for the job in every single case. It may result in an entirely different issue further down the road. It is a commendable effort by many governments worldwide, but probably at the expense of a few good men. In a better world, people are hired and promoted based on merit, expertise and spirit, to name but a few qualities. But you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs, I suppose.
I think that in order to see positive change in business, we need to address a different issue: social pressure and compliance at home. Old habits die hard, or so it seems. Where I live, it’s perfectly okay for women to have a career and that’s great! You just need to find a way to manage it whilst taking care of your family. And that’s not just the husband’s opinion. There’s a lot of peer pressure too.
Despite all efforts and campaigns, about 50% of all higher educated women stop working full-time before the age of 30 in Belgium. It’s a personal choice I can relate to. And if you’re happy with it, you have all my sympathy and respect. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise either that, on the work floor, women are outnumbered by far. There’s no shortage in supply of men. So – at least in Belgium – I guess it’s a numbers game after all.
What’s your experience? And what’s the prevailing opinion in your country?
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