Gender Quotas: The Affirmative Action of the Corporate World?

Author: Catherine Dreiling | August 11, 2015

Women make up more than 50.8 percent of the U.S. population, earn nearly 60 percent of undergraduate and master’s degrees and hold 52 percent of all professional-level jobs. However, in 2014, the percentage of women holding leadership positions was shockingly low. Only 4.6 percent served as a Fortune 500 CEO, 14.6 percent held an executive officer position and 8.1 percent could be classified as a “top earner.” It’s no secret that gender inequality and bias in the corporate world has been a long-standing issue, not only in the U.S., but internationally as well. European countries have set “targets” within a certain time frame that large companies must meet regarding the number of women in leadership positions. Other countries, such as Norway, Spain, France, Iceland, Italy and most recently Germany, have required companies to fill a gender “quota” or face consequences.

Will either of these tactics work, or make their way to the U.S.?

Gender quotas have received their share of opposition. Some women argue that they want to be appointed to an executive role based on merit alone. Additionally, women believe they might not be viewed as a legitimate equal to their business peers.

One thing to bear in mind is our perception of the working world, which typically includes a surplus of men, primarily Caucasian, sitting around the boardroom, with all the power in their diverse-less hands. Perhaps initiating a gender quota or even a gender “target” will change the way we look at women in the corporate sector and, ultimately, alter the dynamic of boardrooms nationwide. Some might even argue that these quotas will encourage women to unleash their aspirations and ambition, knowing that there is a fair chance of promotion.

Either way, gender inequality is becoming more recognizable and there is hope that we will see an increase in women taking on leadership roles. Speaking as a member of an all-women organization, I can vouch for the effectiveness of women leaders and can only hope that as a society we recognize the strength of diversity in the boardroom.

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