Monday, June 6, 2011

The great debate - do real women need quotas

A group from Management Consultancy International attended the wonderful great debate last week to listen to a range of speakers on the topic of - Do real women need quotas?
An amazing array of women (and 2 men) gave us their views.
Julie McLellan said that women do not need quotas - we need experience, education and a network that will promote us. Her suggestion was that if you want to get on to a board, you need to find someone in the network who is swamped with offers and who will be happy to hand your name forward.
You need education as well because boardrooms are not for the well-intentioned and the ignorant. There is joint and several liability and we have to perform to the highest standards.
Not only does there need to be progress - there needs to be sustainable progress. We need mentoring in place and training to give us better directors.
Most women are derailed long before they get to board level - let's spend time fixing that issue first so that there is a huge pipeline we can tap in to.
Ita Buttrose stood for women needing quotas. She made the point that if we are selling or marketing to half the population here, would you not want input from women in to this key market segment? But the old boys network is still very strong. Women have taken huge strides forward - and the world never crashed! We can't just think about tokenism - having women on boards sends a strong message to other women in the organisation that they too have open doors for endless possibilities.
Women will not go away and they need the right to have their voices heard. John Singleton joked with Ita saying that women are not bastards enough and are too honest. And if you look at some of our corporate 'heroes' who are now in jail, what is there really to learn from them?!? Ultimately the "mob" running the boardrooms currently do not want to give up their power easily - unless obliged to.
Jean Kittson argued against the need for quotas. She said that we have quotas in our social clubs in our sports arenas because we set professional standards. Our ovaries are not enough to get us in to the 'club'.
Quotas could in fact work against us in that they could encourage in-fighting amongst women who feel that others have been parachuted in to positions based on favoritism.
Malcolm Turnbull said that the only way around this issue is to create family-friendly workplaces. In that way everyone wins. A workplace that is flexible helps end all forms of discrimination.
Peter Ritchie ended the debate by making the point that we all yearn for better leadership. If we had quotas twenty years ago, we would have more women leaders now. Men, he said, are a "bunch of over-mothered woeses!"

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