Quotas for women’s representation on our boards, in our government and in the C-suite are a topic I’m often hesitant to bring up – you never quite know what side of the fence someone sits on; even when amongst fellow fervent feminists.
When the topic does come up, I’m the first to proclaim my attitude for a quota system. I think they’re necessary for change and equality to happen in our life time. I’m recently back from India where I took part in the Business Chicks Immersion and Leadership Program and what I learned there has only deepened my love for the ‘q’ word.
In India, where perhaps women’s rights are the worst in the world, they have a quota system in place which is slowly chaging the status of women. At local government level, 33 per cent of all seats are reserved for women. It was a trailblazing decision to make in 1991 and it baffles me that a country that is so backward in their attitude towards women can have made the decision, yet our leaders are constantly tiptoeing around it.
In India, the decision to introduce quotas created 100,000 women leaders quite literally overnight. Giving women who had led a life of complete subjugation and abuse a voice; they are no longer invisible. And it’s a powerful thing.
I met with many Elected Women Leaders in India who, when given the opportunity, have accomplished the most ground breaking things. Women who have, with great fight, brought basic human rights to the people of their village – toilets, water and access to food stamps. They’ve given their girls access to education and are doing a hell of a lot to stop malnutrition amongst children and women. Together they’re standing up to abuse and slowly, slowly, progress is being made.
When you give a woman a leg up, an opportunity; she’ll make something of it. I don’t buy any of this talk of meritocracy or that we’re not ready. Bullshit. We’ve always been ready and we just need to be given the chance. What’s happened in India is perhaps the greatest argument for quotas of them all; women with barriers so much larger than ours have achieved mind blowing things just because they were given an opportunity to hold a position of influence.
I’m not going to sit here drumming my fingers on my desk for the next 200 years until equality happens at a ‘natural’ pace. Let’s follow in the footsteps of India, Norway and other countries around the world and Introduce quotas to force equality of numbers to happen in our political and business landscapes. Who knows what we’re capable of, but I sure want to be here to see it, don’t you?
Rebecca Bodman is the editor of Latte magazine, you can connect with her here.