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Why Gender Quotas Cause More Problems Than They Solve

Kirjoittanut: Merve Sevim Kose - tiimistä Satku.

Esseen tyyppi: Yksilöessee / 2 esseepistettä.
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 4 minuuttia.

“I loathe the idea of being hired because of my gender, and I shudder at the thought that
one day I show up on set, and half of the crew thinks, ‘Here comes the quota hire.’ This
statement made by Lexi Alexander, a film and television director, voices the fears of many
women. Gender quotas, defined by the European Institute for Gender equality are an
“instrument aimed at accelerating the achievement of gender-balanced participation and
representation by establishing a defined proportion to be filled by, or allocated to, women
and/or men”. But while the intended purpose is to resolve the structural oppression of
women in the job market, involuntary forcing people to put women into positions, can
provoke a backlash that intensifies this issue even more. However, it does serve the
intended purpose and gives women the opportunity in fields, they would not be given a
chance in because of discriminatory application procedures. The question is if the mere
presence of female colleges and bosses leads to the crucial understanding of the necessity
for gender quotas or if it intensifies the subconscious prejudices against women in the
professional world.
A gender quota victimizes women further instead of equalizing them with men. Choosing a
candidate because of their gender means not choosing them because of their qualification
and skills, therefore meaning the job was given to them by a factor they do not control and
work for. In terms of working atmosphere and respect among colleagues, this causes a sharp
wedge between both sexes and negatively influences the way men see their female
colleagues. Having the need to be given something because they are discriminated against,
can easily give the impression that women are vulnerable and in need of saving. Such
perception does not only not bring us closer towards equality in the professional world, but

it also sets us back to a social viewpoint of women, feminists have fought against for
centuries. By forcing a representation, we can ensure equal opportunities but not equal
Quotas are a way to fight against gender discrimination by introducing a rule that narrows
people down to their sex. Is the right way against discrimination truly another form of it, like
fighting fire with fire? This perspective is harmful for individuals who are not part of the
marginalized group because of one attribute. While men, in general, will still have job
opportunities, as the need for quotas is caused by the majority in certain fields and positions
being men, not all of them belong to the socially advantaged group of white, heterosexual
males. The implementation of a gender quota greatly affects those men which belong to a
disadvantaged minority, but who are obviously not women. For example, a man who comes
from a poor socio-economic background is black, or openly homosexual will already face
hardships beyond his sex, introducing a gender quota will therefore worsen his position in
the job market even further.
Women are certainly not the only group that are discriminated against, so if we grant them
an advantage, what does other groups, affected by prejudices in the job market, stop from
demanding the same treatment? When woman receive a gender quota, other disadvantaged
groups might demand the same for their minority, and looking at this study from 2016 about
race and presentation in the labor market, which showed that Black and Asian applicants are
twice as likely to get invited for a job interview, if they “whiten” their resume, there is no
reason those minorities don´t deserve a quota as well. 3 In such a scenario, with quotas for
every minority, the quality of work in every field will suffer tremendously, affecting the
population. Besides that, the original intended purpose of the quotas will backfire. Knowing
that a female, Asian or someone with a hijab might be a quota-worker and primarily
employed because of that feature, many people, including customers, will think their work is
not as great as that of a white man. This will therefore only lead to what already exists and
the quota is an element of the battle against: The preferential treatment of the typical
western man throughout the world.
Overall, introducing gender quotas will not solve the inequality between the sexes in the
professional world. However, there might be cases where such quotas help resolve sexism,
such as the political field, where female politicians give other women a voice. Some nations,

such as Costa Rica, South Africa, and Argentina, have made incredible improvements in
women’s political representation due to quotas, whereas in other countries, such as Sweden
and Norway, they contributed more to avoiding backlash and preserving a high level of
female representation. This might be one of the reasons why there is still controversy about
the topic, as the negative aspects clearly outweigh the positive intentions for gender quotas
in every profession, but research concerning quotas in politics shows the large positive effect
they can have. There is however a need for further developing our concepts and methods
regarding other professional fields. As women’s inequality is an extremely complex issue,
which demands larger structural adjustments, we cannot expect a single rule to change the
centuries-long oppression by men and need to find ways to influence and educate to make
people choose a female applicant for her skills not because of her gender. The focus must be
put on striving towards equality, not only fight against inequality.


Alexander, Lexi. BrainyQuote.com. BrainyMedia Inc, 2021. 21 January 2021.
https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/lexi_alexander_946548 (16.01.2021)

Dahlerup, Drude. (2008). Gender Quotas – Controversial But Trendy. International Feminist
Journal of Politics. 10. 322-328. (18.01.2021)

European Institute for Gender Equality. gender quotas. 2021.

Gerdeman, Dina. Minorities Who 'Whiten' Job Resumes Get More Interviews. Harvard
Business School. 17 May 2017. https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/minorities-who-whiten-job-
resumes-get-more-interviews (18.01.2021)

Moi! I am born and raised in The Netherlands but my parents are from Turkey, I also lived the past 8-9 years of my life there before coming to Finland :). I am interested in psychology, books & movies. Therefore you could expect a lot more essays about these topics but I will try to integrate writing about Business in the long run...

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