Recently I applied for a position as a Member of a Supervisory Board. Unfortunately I didn’t get the job because another candidate already had experience as a Member. I get that, but if you never catcha break, how are you ever going to get that experience to begin with? Whether or not my opponent was male or female didn’t seem relevant. Untill I came across a zillion articles regarding the Female Quotum on all kinds of media.
Feminsts and (fe)male chauvinist pigs, advocates and opponents all them felt the need to share their opions and arguments. One advocate mentioned that if she was to get a job as a result of the quotum she would be completely fine with it. At that point I wondered how I myself would have responded if a phonecall came “Congrats we choose you for the position, not in te least to meet our female target”. Loads of ideas popped up but none of them suitable to post on the internet…
Sure, during my 30 year career I saw ‘old boys network’ in action. A glass ceiling might be more difficult to see, but I know it’s there. And yes, unfortunately I did encounter #metoo circumstances. Being a female means there are disadvantages. But, still each disadvantage has a flipside. In all the years of having working in a masculine setting, I was always considered as the trusted advisor. One general manager went out of his way, ensuring HE got the coffee in order to prevent that the management team would look at me as the usual catering suspect. Rarely did I not feel taken seriously, at least not by my male colleagues. Sisterhood on the other hand sometimes reminded me of Cinderella and her stepsisters.
It is proved over and over that diversity boosts sound decision making, engagement and even suitable growth. Question that springs to my mind if solely a gender mix leads to the diversity needed to create that type of impact. Despite the publication date of 2005, Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs is a must read on the topic. Levy shows in a playful manner that characteristics are not necessarely bound to gender.
Nonetheless, off course males and females differ. Research shows that ladies are more inclined to under estatimate their abilities. When offered a job ‘we’ think “Will I be able to do this?”. A thought that is it not very common to a guys brain. What might come across as a lack of enthusiasm could very well be female critical selfreflection. Something that needs to be considered more often in selection procedures.
Another topic were ‘we’ can definitely improve is the number of hours we put in the job. Dutch females are by far excelling on working parttime. According to the emancipation monitor (CBS) the percentage in the Netherlands lays at 74% where as in other EU-countries on average 31% of females work parttime jobs. Regardless ongoing discussions on work-life balance, today having a job at the top equals crazy hours. Availability is required, even during holidays and weekends. As an HR professional I often spoke to very talented ladies who just weren’t that interested in climbing the ladder. The stress, politics, impact on personal life and wellbeing… they were all reason for them to not apply for an executive position.
Is a quotum going to help solve these issues? I think not. In settings were a quotum was actually applied, with every appointment the rumors came along. Although spreading doubt about ability versus gender might be a teething phase we need to get through, nevertheless it is to taken seriously. Well intended regulation might backfire causing more harm than good.
How will we create equal opportunity and equal pay? I haven’t found the answer yet. Please share your thought on the subject because I do believe that finding the answer can only derive from ‘Diversity of Minds’.