The mechanism connected with quotas is as follows: women come to men and ask “give us some of your power”. Exactly: we ask. Instead of creating the reality and showing the real women’s strength and potential we once again come to men and say “share with us what you have”.
Lately, the Congress of Women took place, the discussion about women and their role in society has been recently extremely heated. The subject is broad, so I will focus on the matter, to which this subject is quite often (of course not always) reduced – namely the quotas.
It is good that the discussion about women (e.g. lately on the Congress of Women) is conducted. It is bad that very often it is quite narrow. It is bad both for women and men. It is bad for women because we deprive ourselves of real chances of equalising our position and rights by narrowing discussions to arguments for and against quotas. It is bad for men because the solutions we talk about can increase the number of women in public institutions or management boards of private companies but it does not necessarily mean that it will be followed by the increase of the quality of management thanks to women’s participation. And this is what we are fighting for now…
A system not single tools
Above all, quotas and parities are tools which should be analysed and recommended as one of the elements of the system of the support of equal rights and women’s development not as a solution itself.
A guarantee of the right number of posts for women in public or private institutions does not solve the problem of the lack of equal women’s and men’s rights. On the contrary, it can be the cause of increasing animosity of men towards women and what is more, it can lead in extreme situations to the discrimination of men. Every action towards equal rights is complicated and requires comprehensive and bottom-up solutions based not only on tools but also on the change in attitudes. Past events show that the lack of such actions can – instead of equalising chances – lead to such a situation when a potentially discriminating party becomes discriminated, what obviously not only does not solve the problem but actually deepens animosity or even hatred between two parties, both of which can feel disadvantaged.
Talking about implementing such solutions as quotas for women is like the reform of the educational system. We wanted younger children to feel safe and that is why lower secondary schools were created – to protect a pupil from first class from being pushed during a break by a pupil from eighth class. The problem is that because of shortages in infrastructure and staff in the case of many schools, primary schools are placed in the same building as lower secondary schools – so a pupil from first class is pushed by even older pupil from a lower secondary school.
The same situation may be observed with quotas. We will implement such solutions, we will order to provide the right number of seats for women – and not much will change. Or the requirement will be fulfilled anyhow, what has been proved by the late parliamentary elections, in which some parties declared the right number of places for women on their lists. Women appeared but it was difficult to find them on the top of these lists. Or – the second option – women will get right seats or posts but neither they will be well prepared for them and will prove that it is not a good solution, nor men will treat them equally, claiming that they got these posts “just for being female”.
Education is the basis
That is why, what we lack the most is education. Both of women and men. Education of women is important to prepare them to become a part of power (in different aspects) and enable them to prove with their actions that they not only get certain seats or posts but also that they are competent and can be valuable for a given organisation, when such tools as quotas are introduced.
Even the best tools implemented in the wrong way will be useless. Providing the right number of seats and posts for women in public institutions or private companies without preparing them for serving such functions can do more harm than good.
What is more, in the case when unprepared women do not do well on their posts, the ones who were against such a solution will be able to say “I told you so”. Let alone the fact that it will be a failure for these women and will surely result in their discouragement to undertake further actions.
The education of men who will understand that women, as their co-workers, can contribute valuable knowledge, experience and skills. Who will understand that women are and will be their competitors but it will be a competition based on content not sex.
But I can completely understand men’s fears that they will take part in unfair competition, which they can lose only because they are men. I also hope that everybody is aware how sensitive this issue is and that these fears are not entirely unfounded and it is easy to cross the line (also setting some rules and formal requirements), which will cause the situation when a discriminating party becomes discriminated.
The fight for quotas has a sense but only when it is a part of a wider programme. The programme thanks to which women will be prepared to take high offices in public institutions and private companies.
It is a fact that there appear more and more initiatives supporting women. Some of them appear because diversity is a priority for the European Union and funds can be granted for them. Some of such programmes are really interesting and attractive. But I cannot see (maybe I am wrong) any coherent approach to the subject and using the effect of synergy coming from all these actions.
We want to get it for free
Actually, the whole mechanism connected with quotas is as follows: women come to men and ask “give us some of your power”. Exactly: we ask. That is all because we do not talk about healthy rivalry and competition. W do not say: create good circumstances and we will put up for competition women who will be well prepared and will compete with men. No. We come and say: give us seats. And actually we do not promise anything in return. Because we do not set requirements apart from the ones concerning sex, we do not define any criteria or demands concerning other requirements and skills which women should have. I think it is not quite fair. I also think that it is still like that, that instead of creating reality and showing the real women’s strength and potential we once again come to men and say “share with us what you have”.
We are against discrimination but we also discriminate
Lastly, I would like to mention issues other than quotas. We fight for women’s rights but we fight against men not with them. It means that actually we show certain kinds of behaviour which prove that we do not look for consensus but we fight under the slogan “We or You”.
In this case I mean any actions and initiatives, which are only with women and for women e.g. Women’s Shadow Cabinet. Men do not create Men’s Shadow Cabinets. Is not it like that, that firstly such ideas are very confrontational? They say clearly: “We or You”. Secondly, they contradict the idea of equal rights – as any institution comprising solely of women discriminates against men.
And here is one doubt I cannot get out of my head. Where is the border, after which we do not fight for equal women’s chances but we confirm and show that we need tools, which will give us a head start and enable us to show our skills? I do not think that I am worse. I do not think that I lack something in comparison with men when it comes to intellect or other factors vital from the perspective of professional career. That is why, I do not think that women should get additional points “for their birth”. In the past you could get them for being of peasant origin, now you can get them for being a woman. I would like my knowledge and skills to have major influence on my career and development, not my sex. I do not really believe that demonstrating that I am a woman and that is why “I deserve this” is the way I would like to go.
Translation: Anita Stradomska