When Progress is Too Slow, We Need Gender Quotas
We’ve seen in many countries where they have instituted some quotas that they have been able to bring more women in and that it really has made a big difference in the quality of the decision making position
Gloria Feldt is the former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power.
She is a frequent public speaker, lecturing at universities, civic and professional organizations, and national and international conferences on women, feminism, politics, leadership,media, and health. In addition to speaking on these topics, she tours with an intergenerational feminist panel, WomenGirlsLadies. She is a professor of practice at Arizona State University, where she teaches a course called “Women, Power, and Leadership.”
Feldt currently serves on the boards of the Women’s Media Center and the Jewish Women’s Archive, and on the Our Bodies, Ourselves advisory board.
Gender quotas are not my favorite way to think about helping women reach parity in the workplace or in government, but I think that sometimes we may be at a place and particularly in different cultures they may be more necessary.
We’ve seen that the World Bank has said that parliaments that have larger numbers of women in them have less corruption, a better decision making process and at the rate we’re going here in the United States to reach parity in political positions it will take 70 years to get there.
Now since I've been an activist for women for several decades already I’d love to think I could live another 70 years to see that happen, but I probably am not going to have that luxury and I think that’s really too slow and the same holds around the world and we’ve seen in many countries where they have instituted some quotas that they have been able to bring more women in and that it really has made a big difference in the quality of the decision making position, the quality of the decisions that are made in those parliaments.
Similarly, there is a hugely important business case to be made for bringing more women in even if it requires quotas to do that. What we’ve seen from Ernst & Young and McKinsey and other big consulting firms that have looked at companies around the world is that those with more women in their upper management and on their boards of directors actually make more money. So they’re more profitable. So there is a lot of good reasons and so sometimes I think maybe having quotas might just help move that along, but over the long term I honestly believe that we women have the capability in our own hands. What we need to learn to do more of is to put ourselves forward.
We need to put ourselves forward much more aggressively for those C-suite positions. We need to not be shy about negotiating those entry level salaries. We need to learn to say the first word. I mean one of the power tools that I teach in No Excuses is define your own terms first before someone else defines you because you are going to be defined and if you think about it in many meetings who talks first? It’s usually a man.
So we women need to learn not to have that moment of hesitation, but rather to put ourselves forward and I think if we just did that and nothing else that we would probably be moving toward that parity in leadership positions just as fast as quotas would take us there.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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