Do We Need Quotas?

28/01/2019

The short answer, in my opinion (with a few possible exceptions), is no. The idea of quotas being the gauge for eligibility for any kind of work, position, award, etc. is supposed to push to the forefront diversity, be it racial or gender based. It should be acknowledged that there is still a level of discrimination that is faced in certain professions and workplaces, but immediate change cannot be forced by implementing quotas.

My main concern with quotas is that of merit. If a man or woman, person of colour or white, is appropriately qualified or deserving of a job or an accolade, then it is they who should be most likely to receive it. The old and (relatively uncommon but still pronounced) current trend of a male being chosen over a woman, or a white person being chosen over a person of colour, is obviously wrong. The person most competent should, at all times, be considered regardless of identity. Equality, in this context, should not mean equal achievement but equal opportunity to achieve.

The common statistics are usually related to CEO positions and awards being won in the film industry for various categories. For the first, it would do well to note that those positions, held primarily by men, are generally lifelong (or at least, work life long) and therefore will require a minimum of a decade or two before a noticeable shift could be monitored.  As an aside, saying “It’s 2019” (input the last 5 or so years for similar effect) will not automatically make change occur, as the yearly edit and repetition evidently shows. It needs to be driven by real people taking real action over time. Declaring yourself on the side of an oppressed or underrepresented group and making meaningless statements like the above makes your position shallow. Digression aside, if we want to see the statistics for women in the workplace rise, it is up to the people to change the dynamic. While the discrimination should not exist in the first place, it will slowly die off and allow for success based on merit and not identity. And yes, this does mean that if a white male is more qualified for the job, it is not racist or sexist for him to hold that position – it would be, however, if he were denied it based on quotas.

As for the second, and probably more publicised one due to the saturation of media and entertainment in these sorts of discussions, it has a similar long term solution and an unreasonably simply short term solution that has, in a few cases, already be introduced. As time moves on, female directors and the like will be recognised more prominently than they are currently. The argument is that movies created by women are overlooked in major film awards, and that less deserving male counterparts are chosen instead. One of the things the Me Too movement has done is highlight the already glaringly obvious issues of sexism in Hollywood, so the arguments legitimacy can hardly be questioned. Again though, Me Too is now a movement spanning years, bringing to light the areas that require change – and so as time goes on this will happen. The institutions that are inherently sexist, such as the film industry, will evolve into something more inclusive – and based on the merits of the people and products made. The simple solution is, of course, having “best actor” and “best actress” style awards. In the entertainment industry, there is nothing wrong with having awards that recognise the best of either sex, regardless of which might be the best overall, because in creative works each offer perspectives unique from each other. As with regular workplaces, implementing quotas does nothing to celebrate the merit of the work being done but places achievement solely in the realm of identity.

One profession I can understand the purpose of quotas is in politics. In a representative system like ours, there is a certain logic that can’t be denied when you consider that our population is 50/50 male and female. Having representation of both makes sense, but even there an argument against quotas could still be made. Realistically, so long as the elected representative of an area has the best interests of their constituents in mind, and is appropriately informed of those interests, again the gender has no real sway. Unless their role in the government is specifically to do with women, or Indigenous issues, or LGBT rights, it is about the merit and credibility of the person. While the push in Parliament for a 50/50 split would be a great marker for equality in political representation, what gender my LNP candidate is will not make me want to have them elected any more than usual.

Equality should not mean equality of achievement, but equality of chance to achieve. Society evolves slowly towards such goals, and trying to force it with quotas has caused undue backlash, and with that more polarisation. This is another opinion where I find myself at odds with both sides – either I’m not progressive enough by not supporting quotas, or I’m still a stupid lefty for saying I support equality (which is, by those people, interpreted somehow as the brand of feminism hellbent on the destruction of men all together).

Remember, in the 1980’s it was considered ‘rebellious’ to be part of the LGBT community, and people were beaten up and discriminated against heavily for it. Thirty years later, LGBT rights are being recognised and same sex marriage has been legalised, but there is still a portion of the population who are against it. In another thirty years, sexism and racism will undoubtedly still exist, but where will we be in terms of representation? Time and people driven societal change will tell.

 

Liked this? Read A Woman? Dancing? The Insolence!

Previous piece: We Cannot Declare Foreign Leaders

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