Calls for quotas for Asians on company boards and in the upper echelons of the public service would provoke ridicule. Arguments that corporate Australia needs to harness Asian perspectives to better compete in the `Asian century’, and that Asian people are unfairly underrepresented in the senior managerial ranks of the largest companies would be dismissed as weak at best.
Yet the same sorts of arguments motivate the depressingly fashionable trend toward quotas for women in the workforce. Since 2011 both the government and the Australian stock exchange have introduced rules requiring companies to encourage greater female representation at the executive level, so far stepping short of recommending hard quotas.
The public service has gone further, though. Treasury in Canberra intends to have women make up 35 per cent of its senior staff by 2016, and this week it emerged the Reserve Bank has considered an `aspirational’ target of ensuring women fill 40 per cent of its senior ranks, despite an internal review showing no bias against women in promotion given their levels of experience.
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Positive discrimination is, if not dead, at least on life support with an overeager nurse reaching for the off switch.
That’s according to a decent-sized survey out today that found two thirds of Australia’s bosses will not mandate that females be included in shortlists for senior management positions.
I reckon I wouldn’t be alone in turning a blind eye to that nurse, and wanting quotas put out of their misery. There are much better ways to achieve workplace diversity.
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True equality is impossible. We are not born equal, and we cannot be made equal.
But equal opportunity for all is a noble and realistic goal.
In a fairly short time – say, a century – women’s position in society has altered dramatically. This time one hundred years ago women had few rights. They were second-class citizens.
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Does Australia need a Quota Law? Most would say ‘no’ – just as they did in Norway when it was introduced. Now that at least 40 percent of board seats on Norwegian Public Listed Companies are held by women, the Quota Law is widely accepted across Norway as a reform ‘they had to have’.
But has it produced a result down the food chain? A recent study has said ‘not at this stage’, questioning if quotas are required at management and executive levels or if the marketplace and gender conscious Norwegian society will address this imbalance.
The Quota Law requiring companies to appoint 40 percent of the under-represented gender to their boards was announced by the Norwegian Minister for Trade and Industry in a conservative government, in 2002 and approved by Parliament in 2003.
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