Flying Business Class: Why it's time to embrace gender quotas

Thursday 7th July, 2016

If the subject of Mandated Gender Quota comes up in conversation, chances are you have an opinion on the matter. I did, it was: yes, sure, good idea, why not. That was my uncomplicated, relaxed view. After two recent gobsmacking conversations and some research however, I now have very strong opinions on gender quotas, starting with: mandate mandate mandate.

The conversations were with two very different men at two very different top-tier professional services firms, but they were pretty much identical and went something like this: 'I can’t progress at my firm because all the (good) roles are going to females…'

As the first of the conversations was happening I was more confused than anything else: is he really saying that? Does he know that I am female? Did the moderation mode between his brain and his mouth go into catastrophic failure? The scary answer was that a successful, seemingly bright and considered man thought it was acceptable to gripe about progressive policies towards gender diversity.

Even more scary, as it turns out, he is not alone. There are a whole lot of people (men and women) out there begrudging the policies that are supporting the movement towards an equal representation of genders in the corporate world. The key word here is equal, we are not asking for >50% representation, just, eventually – EQUAL – and they resent it.

placeholderSo let’s unpack the 'gripe':

We have to assume these educated men do not classify themselves as being sexist. They probably even think of themselves as 'open-minded'. They are also likely to be in furious (theoretical) agreement when gender quota policies are discussed at the office; they are seen to be talking the talk. But if they are complaining to me, are they walking the talk? I wonder what are they saying at home:

'Hi daughter, I know you work hard, but don’t ever put your hand up if a man is going to miss out because of it.'??


'Hi son, I am definitely the best, but a lady beat me to it. Why? Because she is female, like your mum.'??

Yes, that’s a bit extreme, but I wanted to emphasise my point. The people who are griping about personally missing out because of gender quotas are the chasm between policy and practice. Worse, the same people are messaging, in some way, to the next generation that inequality in the workplace is ok. My question is, how many more generations are we prepared to sacrifice to gender discrimination? When are we all going to walk the talk?

For the ladies out there who want to get there solely on their merit? Forgive me, that’s naïve. The world is not fair, it does not operate on meritocracy alone. It is time the odds were tipped our way and women got a leg up. Why? Here are some scary facts and stats:

  • -  2016 being an Olympic year, I want to remind everyone that the Australian Men’s Basketball Team (The Kangaroos) flew to the 2012 London Olympics in business class while the Women’s Team (The Opals) flew premium economy. 2012, a decade into the present Century and only four years ago.
    -  While we are in 2012, a survey of Fortune 250 companies that year found that the average first year of appointing a company's first female director was 1985.* That’s the year Madonna released Into the Groove and more than 100 years post industrialisation.
    -  Last year, women held only 20% of board positions in ASX200 companies, up from 11% in 2010.^

Isn’t it time we really walked the walk as well as talked the talk and reached for that mandated gender quota?

For the record, the Kangaroos came 7th at the 2012 Olympics and the Opals took home the Bronze medal – I am just saying.

What am I saying? Women and men both deserve to fly business.



Sacha Faulkner is a Client Services Director at Evolve Intelligence. Sacha is passionate about diversity.


*Jump up to: a b Larcker, David; Tayan, Brian (September 2013). "Pioneering Women on Boards: Pathways of the First Female Directors". Stanford Closer Look Series: 2.
^ Catalyst. 12 March 2014. Retrieved 19 May 2016.