Quotas for women in business. Discuss

In January 2011 The Australian Stock Exchange’s (ASX) Diversity recommendations for listed companies came into force.  Whilst diversity covers many forms the ASX recommendations are primarily focused on ‘Gender Diversity’.  Amongst these recommendations companies now have to report on the percentage of women in the organisation as well as a breakdown of women holding senior management and board positions.  Listed companies are required to disclose their Diversity Policy and failure to do so may result in a breach of ASX Listing Rules.  There are pros and cons for these recommendations but the objective is clear, they are driven by a need for fair and equal workplaces.

This policy impacts me. I work for a large corporate ‘listed’ company. I am responsible for delivering an important piece of technology to Australians.  I make technical decisions, I manage technical people and I am a woman.  I am rare. In fact my female parts and I make up just 2-7% of the females in management in IT in my company.  The ASX decision to have listed companies report on gender diversity has turned my world upside down.  All of a sudden I have a voice; the sound cannot be coming from my conventional voice box as I’ve had that all along. I’ll leave it up to your imagination.  I am being heard, I am being listened too, I am being asked to stand up and deliver and finally I am being asked to consider promotion.

I work as hard as my male peers, possibly harder as being a woman I have had to continually prove myself and then accept disappointment when I am overlooked for ‘one of the boys’.  I have an ego and I would like to think that I have had something of worth to say before now.

I am a woman managing technology and I am good at my job.  I’ve worked hard to be able to say that.  You can’t dispute it because recently I received recognition for a successful result in the form of a $100 gift voucher. This validation proves I am good right? (I am not going to say ‘out loud’ that I did the math and this equates to $14,400 in overtime after tax .. because this is not the point to my message) I am going to say thanks for the recognition of my effort.  Before now someone else would have taken the credit. What is of worth is that the story behind my achievement was told as well, this is where the true value resides.  The ASX diversity initiative is spot on, productivity is greater with diversity, I’ve seen it firsthand. Regardless of whether this diversity is gender based a new perspective increases the scope of a discussion.  Companies like mine can only benefit from appointing more women into decision making positions.  My newly appointed female peers who have earned their positions based on merit are a testament to that.


The point of this article is that I am concerned.  Recently I was ‘put back in my place’ as a subordinate by a male peer.    It was a rude and degrading conversation and it didn’t leave any room for interpretation, I got the message loud and clear and knew ‘my place’ at the end of it.

It’s not lost on me that this conversation would not have taken place with any of our male colleagues. He wouldn’t dare.  My peer, this person, sees me as competition and I feel his beady eyes questioning my new found vocal ability.  It’s this exact behaviour that needs to change. I reiterate I am concerned. I am concerned how my next promotion will be viewed.  Will the corridor conversation reflect I got the job based on merit or will ASX diversity legislation just send more resentment my way?

Women who are promoted into a role based on merit will soon prove themselves and make a difference.  To my female peers and myself it’s important that the escalation up the corporate ladder is based on merit and not just because one is a woman or louder or blonder then the next.  Women who are promoted based on their capability are talented, rational and will transform companies by bringing diversity to the decision table.

Whilst the ramifications of my next promotion are clear I still think that quotas are a great opportunity to allow those who are unseen to be considered.  Whether that quota is because of race, gender, and sexual preference to name a few, this is an important message.  The diversity quota brings another voice to the table that represents society and that voice is one of a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter or a friend and this is something we should all support.

Tracy Cantwell is a technology manager in Mobility internet with a strong technical background spanning 17 years. She lives in Sydney with her partner and two children

Do you think that quotas in business are a good thing?

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