Legislating Quotas for Gender Diversity

Legislating Quotas for Gender Diversity

I Think Its High Time To Legislate For Greater Diversity

Yet another report has been published about the status of women in Australia. The HILDA report (The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey) is a household-based panel study that collects valuable information about economic and personal well-being, labour market dynamics and family life.

This report highlights the glaring social, economic and workplace inequity for women in Australia. It, along with other reporting from organisations like WGEA, serves to highlight the very slow rate of change towards gender equality.

Blah Blah Blah

This is the part where my eyes start to roll and I emit a very loud sigh then utter “Blah, blah blah!”

I write with the greatest respect towards my colleagues in the gender equality space who undertake research and those who are in the media reporting on what we are doing.

Research, reports and articles are useful, because they help all of us understand where we are now. In fact, I’m smack bang in the middle of researching the status of women in the sporting sector and I regularly write and post about gender equality in sport and business.

Media articles are important because they tell us that gender equality is a long way off and help to contextualise the impact of gender inequality. For example, Conrad Liveris, a respected corporate advisor, found that there are more chief executive officers named “Andrew” leading ASX 200 companies than there are women. Women’s Agenda tells us that female breadwinners are still doing most of the heavy lifting when it comes to cooking, cleaning and caring.  The Guardian (male reporter) backs that up by saying ‘sorry men, we are still the slackest of the sexes.’

I get it. We have to call out the status quo so that there is awareness of the problem. However, I am very weary of the discussion and the lack of action at a system level to address gender inequity.

More Action Less Talk

I want to see more action and less talk by leaders in politics, business, sport and society to address the significant under-representation of women in leadership. I believe that an intervention of significance is required to motivate those same leaders to take action. Hope is NOT a strategy!

Michelle Redfern Hope is not a strategy

At the current rate of change, gender equality will not be achieved for several of my lifetimes.  The World Economic Forum 2018 Global Gender Equality Report predicted “that the gender equality gap will close in 108 years across the 106 countries covered since the first edition of the report. The most challenging gender gaps to close are the economic and political empowerment dimensions, which will take 202 and 107 years to close respectively.”

That is an unacceptable outlook and as Julia Gillard says in her podcast, “I am offended by the lack of women in leadership and the way those that do make it are treated.”

Enough already! Enough agonising over the issue. Enough admiring the problem. Enough talk! It is time for action. It is time for quotas.

The Myth of Merit

Can you hear that? Yes, it’s the tired old argument against quotas echoing again. This tired old argument presents itself in phrases like;

“We hire based on merit, not gender”

“We only recruit the best person for the job”

“I don’t want to be appointed just because I am a woman”

“That is discrimination against men”

Repeat after me. “Merit is a Myth” when it comes to fairness, equity and advancing more women into leadership. For there to truly be merit, there must be no bias in the attraction, recruitment and promotion cycle.

Newsflash. We are human. We all have bias. We know that the norm in leadership in Australia is middle aged, straight, able-bodied white men. So, tell me, how does merit works out for non-male, non-white, non-able-bodied, non-middle-aged, non-straight humans? All of us need systems, policy and process to eliminate, or minimise, the effect of bias.

If women, women of colour, First Nations Women, disabled women and women from the LGBTIQ community are to be given a reasonable chance of participating fully in the workforce and advancing their careers, economic and societal status, then we cannot rely on the (tired) argument of merit.

What we must rely on, is deliberate, intentional action. This deliberate action must be in the form of government mandated gender quotas and organisational gender targets.

Successful Initiatives

Putting quotas in place is not a fanciful notion or completely theoretical. We have all heard and read about Iceland, which took historic action to mandate 50/50 gender balance on boards. Nordic countries lead the global pack when it comes to gender equality. There is much to be learned from them, including mandating gender quotas.

However, let’s look at two success stories of deliberate, purposeful and system wide action to advance women closer to home (if Australia is home.)

The Office for Women in Sport and Recreation (Victoria) mandated that all state sporting organisations receiving funding from the government, were to have 40% women on their boards by July 1, 2019. Failure to meet this quota would put funding at risk. The quota was initiated in 2017 and a mere 44% of boards were compliant. Fast forward to July 2019, and 93% of boards are compliant.

Screenshot 2019-08-02 15.30.54

Setting the target was arguably the easy part. Following that came the heavy lifting with a range of enabling strategies along with a coordinated approach that enabled sports associations to make the necessary changes to reap the benefits of gender balance in the workplace and society.

The Honour a Woman movement was established in 2017 by three women who identified that women received just 30% of the honours and awards in Australia. They knew that without an intervention at a system level, that this statistic was unlikely to change. They are advocating for 50/50 gender balance in both the nominations and awards process and have already influenced significant change in just three short years. Imagine your workplace doing the same.

Honour a Woman

Your Call to Action

There is a mountain of data about the business benefits of gender and cultural diversity. Creating equal opportunity for all women is simply the right thing to do. After all, women have human rights and let’s face it, women represent 52% of the global population.

I am calling on the leaders in our country to step up now and take a courageous leadership stance to stop this inequity. I am calling on leaders in politics, sport, business and society to get real, set targets, make people accountable and measure progress. It is time for gender quotas and targets with teeth. I am calling on all of us, everywhere to stop talking and start doing.

This article was originally published by Advancing Women, and authored by Michelle Redfern

About the Founder

Michelle Redfern BIO 600x300


You are the female economy. Whether you are a female consumer, business owner or a woman in the workforce, you can create gender equality by choosing female led brands.

To learn more about Femeconomy, hit the big red button below:

Submit your brand red blog post

Photo by Michael on Unsplash

Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Director

Jade Collins has 20 years’ global experience in corporate executive Human Resources and management consulting roles in the Mining, Energy and Aerospace industries, leading large scale, complex multi-million-dollar change management programs. Jade finds the combination of her HR, Psychology and MBA qualifications and her leadership experience is invaluable for increasing gender equality in leadership across industries. Jade was a member of the Queensland Government's Strategic Advisory Group for the Toward Gender Parity: Women on Boards Initiative and the 2019 CQU Alumni of the Year for Social Impact for her work with Femeconomy.