Gender quotas; The Newest Form of Discrimination

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Equality and fair distribution of power at all levels of government and private institutions is an ardently debated topic of today. With growing female ascendancy, there has been a push for the introduction of gender quotas in the Maltese system, thus helping to elevate women and bring more equality in such institutions were men are in the majority.

Gender quotas are forms of reserved seats ensuring that women constitute a certain percentage of the members of a body in an institution. In essence, a quota imposes upon employers a minimum number of seats with the aim of redressing an imbalance between the genders. Today, quota systems are applied in many different regions and institutions to ensure a larger presence of women in the workplace, yet it is highly debated whether such a system should be reinforced further in Malta.

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The European affairs and Equality Minister sees it as a “necessary evil”, pointing out that many countries who had a gender quota system in the past, have naturally equal bodies today. This can be seen in Sweden whose gender quota system dated back to 1994. Today, their parliament is 44.7 percent women. In Sweden the quotas were a temporary system which were removed in due course, however, most countries have not limited their use of the quota in a time period but rather set a target percentage with sanctions for the bodies that do not comply.

The use of such a quota has both its advantages and disadvantages. Gender quotas are in themselves a very effective short-term method of providing equality in institutions, bringing women into work and into power, whilst inspiring other females to reach the same positions. It can be seen as a method of correcting and controlling the existing discrimination whilst giving a better representation for women across the board. On the other hand, gender quotas can impose gender above qualifications and experience, reserving a seat for a woman based on her gender rather than giving it to a man who has higher merit for that same seat. Some politicians have also pointed about that such favouritism would question the merits of a woman who is already in power, bringing further discrimination from the electorate on the very people that the country wants to push forward.

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Gender Quotas could also stall the process towards gender equality in the long run if inept women are given a seat simply because of their gender, whilst highly credited men are not given the same chance. This would show favouritism, whilst shedding a bad light on the women who are capable of having a seat of power without any positive discrimination. People in power have pushed for the use of such quotas, creating an environment that favour women in power, hoping it would lead to a higher percentage of women in the electorate. It is my opinion that such expectations will backfire since these women may not have the same merits and qualification that would help in such jobs and gender equality will not be observed under these quotas as men are not given the same opportunities.

Positive discrimination through gender quotas is still discrimination. The strive for equality should never include yet another form of discrimination, even if it is now targeted at the opposite sex. Gender quotas should not be a short-term solution, for the simple fact that they could erase the credibility and credentials that female leaders have worked hard to set for all their female counterparts. Equality and female leadership in all sections of society is a long-term project that has already been set in motion mostly in the younger generations, a project which if not delivered correctly could lead to a growing discrimination against boys who are hearing about the infinite possibilities of female work and may be set aside on the basic assumption that they already have the patriarchal society on their side. It is such discrimination that should be set aside, placing women above men will only mean that history will repeat itself. It is time that genders are seen as nothing but a mark on the identity card, thus finally giving work and seats to the people who deserve it based on their merits and skills. Such a goal can only be reached through education that serves and promotes all genders.

The long-term solution is already at hand as more girls continue their education, and more women aspire for better jobs, yet present-day leaders have to give the younger generation a chance. If we are truly the future leaders, then do not ruin our chances before we can even arrive at the destination. There is still gender discrimination through the lasting effects of the patriarchal society, but these cannot be removed by forcing men out of power and giving a seat to a female on the context of striving for equality. All of the population should be encouraged to reach their full potential thus promoting the truest form of prosperity through equality.

Written by

Bernice Zarb

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