Quotas for Women: Sexism of the German Kind

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When I first read the headline to the attached article, I thought I was reading about a law requiring that the women in Germany be subjected to having the measurement of their productivity posted on a company bulletin board, or electronic messaging system.

And, I thought, wow! how sexist. Is this some kind of shame incentive process to boost their work output?

My ire was up. You know the old saying about Ginger Rogers being able to dance as well as Fred Astaire, only backwards and in high heels. That’s what I was thinking. Women have to work twice as hard, multi-task and keep their men organized just to receive half the credit.

Well, this new German law is going to prove these womanhood wonders true! That’s what I was thinking.

But, no, the article is about a law requiring affirmative action for hiring women into executive board positions, currently under represented in corporate Germany. Probably because in all their multi-tasking they are behind American women in the movement, or at least the clamor for proportionate representation.

Now, I’m not a feminist, but equal pay for equal work just makes sense. A job is a job, and performing adequately should be conpensated at a rate that turns a blind eye to the sex of the person getting results. Or the race, or, well, . . . every other unrelated factor.

When I worked as Director of Human Resources, I saw first hand how managers let their biases influence selection of candidates in the hiring process. One supervisor believed that married men are more diligent workers because they have more at stake. This theory may sound reasonable, but is, of course, unfounded. There are single men desiring to work toward monetary goals like acquiring wealth, achieving personal satisfaction, or buying toys. There are single men with strong work ethics–at least there were back in the day. Single men would not tolerate diparate treatment, I assure you.

Additionally, years ago women were considered less desireable because of our potential to become pregnant, then leave the job. That bias was discriminatory to women who had no intention of having a family, women who were postponing motherhood, or those who were unable to conceive.

In order to make hiring decisions more objective than subjective, Equal Employment Opportunity parameters were placed in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion and gender. Some states now have statutes that prohibit discrimination based on marital status, age, and sexual orientation.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if women globally staged, not a die-in or sit-in or an occupy the homefront, but a protest of another kind, namely refusal to participate in vocations that objectify their sex?


Think about it: no more prostitutes, no more strippers, no more Hooters’ buxom, daisy dukes clad servers, no more Victoria’s Secret models on the cat walk or TV, no more Dallas Cowboys’ Cheerleaders. Ooh, what a cultural upheaval that would be!

I’m not yet advocating this, as I remain on the fence at the moment; I’m just speculating on the ramifications. No doubt, it would result in a kind of deprivation to men. But, just maybe women as a large part of the human race would elevate itself, rather than putting the burden on others, namely men. We should follow the advice “Teach others how to treat us.”

Anyway, here’s an excerpt from the article that sparked my reflection on genders and employment.

Women’s quotas on company boards

Harder than it looks

DESPITE an ugly split in Germany’s grand-coalition government, the cabinet has decided to impose a quota for women on German company boards. The decision was announced on December 11th by Heiko Maas, the justice minister, and Manuela Schwesig, the family and women’s affairs minister, both members of the the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SDP). In addition to the SDP, the government includes the centre-right alliance of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Christian Social Union (CSU, the more conservative sister party of the CDU). The latter, especially, was less keen on the idea of quotas, and proposed watering the law down. But after the CDU’s parliamentary leader, Volker Kauder, made himself look sexist by calling Ms Schwesig “whiny”, the cabinet ended up approving the law intact.

Far from whiny, Ms Schwesig and Mr Maas delivered a passionate but poised defence of the quota. Women make up 43% of the labour market as well as 53% of graduates, but hold just 4% of managing-board seats and 15% of supervisory-board seats in Germany’s top 200 companies. The government’s solution is to require 30% of board seats to be held by women in all listed companies that are subject to “co-determination”—meaning that they are required by law to have representatives of their workers on their supervisory boards. If these companies fall below the quota and a board seat becomes empty, it must be kept empty until 30% is reached again.

Whiny and The Blonde

The two ministers have had to overcome serious opposition. The Federation of German industry, a business group, has blasted the Frauenquote, and even Angela Merkel, the chancellor, was originally opposed. The announcement was also greeted with scepticism by journalists, many of whom wondered what filling supervisory boards with women would actually achieve. In Germany’s dual-board system, the managing board has day-to-day responsibility for running the business; supervisory boards, by contrast, exercise only general oversight. Aiming squarely at management would be more efficient at helping women’s careers, but this would cause even more howls among business, since individual managers must have quite specific qualifications—and searching for one of the right gender would make the task even harder.

Mr Maas and Ms Schwesig made the point that the new law would require only some 170 new female board members, and that there were surely that number of qualified women in Germany. But two objections to that have been raised. First, boards seek not just a “qualified” person, but rather someone who fits a specific role. And, second, German supervisory boards have been accused of being dozy or incompetent in recent years. They do not seem packed with eager and brilliant overseers, so perhaps good board members of any sex really are hard to find. That would be one reason, besides sexism, why several companies have talked about leaving Germany if the quota is implemented.

One of many ramifications is a negative impact on the German economy. I guess here in the States if Hooters and V.S. went out of business the economy and men would suffer.

So, I remain on the fence, in front of the drawing board looking for a win-win.

Related: Kim Kardashian puts her best foot? forward.


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