A quota for women

Judith Alexander_IRE_2016_MB_08.jpgWoman wearing black standing at a counter using a laptop, PC or computerMy daughter is not in favour of a quota for women. She is still very young and naïve in these matters, I was also. I tried to explain to her why I had to change sides on this issue.


My class in high school was female apart from 7 male colleagues and we were then 36 students in the class. The majority of the teachers were female, apart from the 2 exotic male teachers and they were rather strange. The chemistry teacher had already taught my mother and, based on what she had told me, he had not only retained all his flaws and weaknesses, but intensified them (but doesn’t that happen to all of us?). The geology teacher was unable in any way to awaken any enthusiasm for his material. As a result, despite great interest and curiosity, my knowledge of these two subjects has remained rudimentary.

At the university my study group was also rather female. When I was a student, I worked all my vacations, very often at the weekend and even during the week. No, I didn’t have any exotic wishes that needed a lot of money but I had always enjoyed work, whatever it was. Then came the first contacts with the gender-specific employment world. In the confectionery shop or also as a summer camp teacher or travel guide it was still the world I knew with female standards. My job at the petrol station had introduced me to the world of “real guys” and shown me that male collectives live by other rules. After leaving the university I entered a world of figures and of law, where half the employees were female but the bosses were virtually all men. I landed in the male world with a female social background.

With the passing of time it began to change a little. I am not drawing on a few statistics as proof, but the changing structure of my contacts at my clients. Today about a third of my clients are female, significantly more than 20 years ago. Only after 20 years it is far from being a half. Today the current publication of the Federal Statistics Office in Switzerland fell into my hands:


There it stood in black and white that in the last 20 years the share of couples where the man is better educated than the woman has fallen considerably.  The share of couples with equivalent education has increased from 56% in 1990 to 58% in 2010, as also have the couples where the woman is bettered educated.

But in order to build a successful and great career, today it is still not enough for the majority of women. One of the major brakes are one’s own children. Either one organises oneself down to the last minute  and pays a fortune for care and help in the household without being able to deduct it fully from taxes. Or one reduces one’s workload and so brakes one’s professional career. Working part-time, one can achieve a great deal, but it is like the great talents in the music business. There’s a difference if you practice on the instrument 4 or 10 hours a day.

But it wouldn’t be fair to blame your own children for everything. A great career requires a coach and supporter. Someone who roots for you, who draws your attention to the THE opportunity and vouches for you with his name or even suggests and recommends you. And as the majority who have this influence, today as 20 years ago, are men, it is only logical that today it needs a man. But do men really support women? Science has proven that heterogeneous groups produce better results than homogeneous groups, but despite this Boards of Directors and Executive Committees are in the majority male although it cannot be a matter of the education of women.


On the desk before me is the printed brochure “Weiterbildungsangebote von EXPERTsuisse, Oktober – November 2016”. 37 pages of training offers full of speakers. I began to thumb through and saw only men although half of the people in this profession are women. Then I made the effort and went through the whole brochure and found only three female names (without pictures). The question is inescapable, why is this so? Are there no good women speakers? Has no one asked them? Are they not even wanted?

Before I was against quotas, because I assumed that if one is good enough, women will make it without quotas. There are exceptions, but they are still only exceptions. If the male world had been really serious about promoting women, half of the executive committees would today be female. Or does the Gaussian distribution curve not apply in certain areas? And as long as the men’s world is not really serious about promoting women, because “birds of a feather flock together” – and that applies not only to hobbies, education but also the sex – I have no other choice but to change sides and plead for the women’s quota.

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