Vote NO to womens suffrage (or to Board quotas)

I’m not sure where this picture originally came from, so apologies for any copyright infringement.  It’s been doing the rounds of facebook and it made me laugh, partly because it reminded me of some of the reasons I hear people give for not getting women onto Boards.

The first ‘reason’ in particular is resonant with arguments made in 2012 for why there are so few womens on boards.

BECAUSE 90% of the women either do not want it, or do not care”

Compare this to an article in the Telegraph in Oct 2012, calmly titled ‘Listen up EU, many women ‘dont want to work on boards’. They tell us:

“As the EU-wide plan to impose a 40pc female quota on listed board looks likely to be blocked on Tuesday, a new survey of female workers in the UK shows the majority do not aspire to reach anywhere near senior management level anyway.”

Really? Do you think they had surveys back in the mists of time that showed that women didn’t want the vote either? Probably. That doesn’t mean that it wasn’t just or that women, once they got the vote, used it. You just have to look at the recent US election to see the force of women. Or, as my husband points out, where is the survey showing what percentage of men want to be senior management? Maybe most people don’t want to be senior managers…

Or what about this reason? “Board quotas would just be a drag, says Imperial Tobacco chief Alison Coope” I really like this article because it combines some powerful forces for supporting the ‘women don’t want it anyway’ argument whilst proving part of the reason that women are not taken seriously in senior roles. Firstly, SHOCK, its a women saying gender doesn’t matter. Well, it does. There are many Gender Studies departments in Universities all over the world that can clearly prove gender does matter. One, or even ten, women’s views on the matter do not a factual argument make. Secondly, look at this beautiful example of how seriously they take Ms Coope.

“Dressed in a lilac jumper dress, broken at the waist with a large black maxi belt, Cooper is holding forth at the London Stock Exchange to present her annual results. Low on make-up and jewellery, save a wedding ring and silver bracelet intertwined with a black watch, she has had a tough year despite the fact cigarette firms are supposed to be a safe haven during downturns.”

Sigh. Powerful women, know your place. Being seen, not heard.

The challenge with the women on boards question is that it’s simply not simple. It brings into play a huge number of relevant issues, women’s confidence, mens perception of women’s ability, societies view of ‘right work’ for women, the impact of childbearing and other caring responsibilities on women, etc, etc, etc. I’d like to see more women in senior roles because it would indicate to me that something in society had shifted, not just because it’s more representative, not because women bring special qualities (I doubt that very much and its a dangerous road to go down anyway), not because they would add more to the bottom line (a second version of the previous point) but just because women are capable human beings that can do the job. Considering women make up the majority of graduates these days anyway, we are really scraping the barrel to find reasons why they should not be in senior roles, much as they were scraping the barrel when they wrote that No to Womens Suffrage leaflet.

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