A rant against meritocracy

On last night's Q&A, Sen Julie Hume pronounced that if women want to get a job in parliament, they just have to 'work harder'. This from a woman who sits in a party that has a whacking 20% female representation in parliament.

Hume's argument plays out right across corporate Australia at board and executive levels. An AICD report identified that 11 ASX200 companies have zero female board members and 64 companies have just one female board member (that is one woman on an eight-person board)*. There are fewer women in Australia running companies than there are men called 'John' running companies.

And yet, and yet, the concept of quotas are howled down on the strawman proposition that they are patronising, the offensive line that women don't work hard enough, or fundamentally false proposition that meritocracy works! Seriously, are the people who lead the government and run the corporate sector the very best we have? 

And yet, and yet quotas are howled down on the simple proposition that they are patronising, that women don't work hard enough, and that meritocracy works! Seriously, are the people who lead the government and run the corporate sector the very best we have?

A company that I recently worked with had, some years ago, introduced a short-term recruitment model that actively promoted existing female employees into more senior roles. It wasn't a standalone activity, there was lots of professional development and mentoring to support the exercise. My understanding of the immediate result was that in line with conventional recruitment programs, most recruits worked and a few didn't. However, over a relatively short period, and after it returned to meritocratic appointments, women had a much-expanded representation right across the business, and female GM's and executives were the norm, rather than the exception.

I have mixed feelings about quotas, they are not a perfect solution,  but in the absence of equal opportunity and fairness, and in the face of blatant sexism, I don't think there's an alternative.

* actually following AMP's mauling in the Royal Commission, these numbers are now perhaps lower.

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