The EU prides itself on having equality between women and men as one of its founding values, but how much do the EU’s values match up with reality? In Europe, only one manager out of three is a woman and she earns almost a quarter less than a man. Half the population is not equally represented on the labour market. This feels unfair, but apart from that, why should we care? Do these inequalities also have unwanted consequences for all of us?

Within Europe, the situation differs greatly between Member States. In Latvia, 53 percent of executives are female – the only EU member state where women are a majority on this level. At the bottom of the ladder, with less than a quarter of female executives, are Germany, Italy and Cyprus. That leads us to the question: why is the gender balance so different from country to country? Can quotas make a difference?

Norway was the first country in the world to adopt binding quotas. As a consequence, women now make up almost 40% of board members in Norwegian companies. German industry groups have often spoken out against binding quotas, which they believe would hurt business. Nevertheless, since 2016, the largest companies have to reach a women’s quota on new appointments to supervisory boards. The 150 concerned enterprises fulfilled their obligation of 30 per cent. However, things are different for the companies that had voluntarily joined the initiative: the proportion of women stagnates here between 8 to 13 percent. So, why are we still arguing over gender quotas?

What do our readers think about the topic? We asked MEPs Terry Reintke from the Greens and Barbara Matera from the Christian Democrats to answer your questions on the women’s quota. Both are experts in the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.

Our reader Me is critical of women’s quota. She writes about her experiences in the IT sector in Northern Europe and believes that she understands both sides: she does not want to be perceived as a ‘quota woman’, but at the same time sees how men promote each other. She believes that we need quotas to overcome structural problems, but also eventually wants to think about when to get rid of them. What does Terry Reintke think? When do we need women quotas and when are they no longer needed?

In order to get a different perspective, we also asked MEP Barbara Matera.

Nowadays we need gender diversity quotas a little bit everywhere. For example, we need gender diversity most of the times in corporations, companies, schools, businesses of all types. When you ask the question, it is the same. I can only assure you that I am, personally, working very hard every day to achieve positive and fruitful results in this matter. Hopefully, this gender disparity will not be needed anymore in the near future.

Next up, we had a comment sent in by Christos is also against a women’s quota because he sees them as ‘reversed discrimination’. How would Barbara Matera respond?

Christos, I do not think that these quotas are a form of discrimination; I personally think they are a way to achieve gender equality. This can however be debated and argued. The idea of ​​gender quotas seems farfetched at first blush. Culturally, it evokes claims of unfairness, triggering fears of unqualified candidates and reverse discrimination against men. (Though such fear itself reveals a deep gender bias in assuming women collectively would be unqualified.) Some fear the potential counter-effect of restriction by a quota, for example, limiting women to 51% of college admissions even where their grades would allow them to constitute a higher percentage of the incoming class.

For another opinion we spoke with journalist Birgit Kelle, who is against women quotas:

I believe that the reasons why there are few women in leadership positions are very complex. The main reason is that women first entered the labour market later. So that’s purely a historical reason, in that we have lived in a man’s world for a long time. It also certainly has less to do with role models, and more to do with the different priorities of men and women. We see that even with affirmative action, women do not necessarily want top positions. Even in countries like Norway, where women benefit from affirmative action, it is no easier to fill vacancies with women. Of course, we are influenced by role models or so-called stereotypes, but we can also see in Germany and Europe that we are ruled by powerful women. These women have not been deterred by stereotypes, so we need to broach the issue of why women are really in less senior positions. It is a novelty that women work in the labour market. Therefore, without a law or quotas, I assume we will see a very different situation in 20 years. We will by then be 50% represented.

Dionator is in favor of a women’s quota, because he believes that is the only way to change the status quo. Furthermore, he believes that the economy will ultimately benefit from more qualified women. Are there any economic reasons for gender quotas?

Why are we still arguing over gender quotas? What do you think? Will the problem solve itself? Should the rest of Europe learn from the success story in Norway?

IMAGE CREDITS: cc/ Flickr – Deutsche BankPortraits: c Kerstin Pukall (Kelle); c European Parliament (Matera)

16 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar


    There are two main reasons:

    1. The left see it as an opportunity to divide people even though it as been proven time & time again men & women generally have different priorities, interests and capabilities.

    2. People are gullible and believe the left.

    • avatar
      Ivan K.

      It seems that you know the truth even though you didn’t show no evidence so I wonder how do you know all this? Can you enlighten us?

    • avatar
      Ivan K.

      I watched the video and could not find evidence supporting her claims and she made a lot of claims. And when she mentions a survey about how women are more likely to do x and men do y that does not prove anything. If for example we find out that pupils in some school scored badly in a test we don’t just say:” well that’s just too bad”. We try to improve teaching and tests.And both men and women are affected by this because that way of thinking does not encourage us to try something else. The statistic does not encourage women to be politicians and men to become male nurses. Also women don’t have access to positions of power and influence as men do because of this trend.

  2. avatar
    catherine benning

    Why are we still arguing over gender quotas?

    This sums up entirely what is completely wrong with and proves the inadequacy of those people who run this sick show.

    Get it through your heads, somehow, a way you can enlighten these sad thinking people as to what the job requirements are. Not one person should be selected on the grounds of their age, gender or sexuality. How crazy is that?

    What difference does their gender of sexual leaning have in choosing a person to serve on that basis. Their only, and I repeat ‘only’ desired ability is, they have the required intellect, academic knowledge and predisposition to do the job to the best that can be found. Who are they going to be pairing with whilst in their job? Why does there have to be a balance. They are not applying for a ballroom dance team. Is there a requirement for being good in bed or something that pairing is needed and no one should be left out? Does the job merit that kind of experience?

    It’s none of the selectors business what gender they are. It is none of our business either. Too much intrusion. What kind of humiliating requirement are you shoving down any applicants throat with this? It is not what they have between their legs that matters, it is what they have between their ears. Are they visionary? Are they free thinking? Will they be able to open the minds of the dead they will find themselves amongst once in their post.

    Or, is the real reason behind this requirement, the present occupants are looking for fresh pickings in that gender department?

  3. avatar

    Why are we still arguing over gender quotas? For fear and ignorance! Furthermore it takes time and effort to have an educated opinion.

  4. avatar

    Because arbitrary quotas based on properties that people do not choose, but are born into, and do not matter in the aspect of skill or potential, are, by definition, a form of discrimination. That is the reason why we keep arguing about them.

  5. avatar

    I studied this a little in college. Gender quotas work but there are definately areas for debate. To me it’s a time issue, it’s unfair to individuals to a certain extent for a short space of time but quickly corrects the bias and is better for the greater good.

  6. avatar

    You want to talk about gender quotas and pay gaps. My wife works for one of the biggest corporations in the world she was to get a promotion because of her good performance, so she gets the job and later on finds out that the person who had that job before was paid significantly more, literally a higher salary grade. In internals she saw how WOMEN were conspiring to offer as little salary as possible. They didn’t quite go as low as they wanted but still lower than the person that had that job before. So much for gender pay gaps and quota accusations against men when WOMEN executives in corporations are part of the problem.

  7. avatar
    Paul X

    If you believe in have gender quota’s then the should be across the board, stop focusing only on the top jobs and claiming all desirable well paid positions must be 50% women and 50% men.
    Also consider the sh!tty jobs that most people only do out of necessity, emptying bins, cleaning sewars, labouring etc and make sure these are gender split 50/50….. even if it means conscription of women, if you want equality then is should not be selective

  8. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    When I see gender quotas I am always struck by the following 2 facts that have a direct impact on the debate question:

    People of Jamaican and West African heritage are the greatest sprinters in the world – eg Bolt, Bailey, Christie, Johnson etc etc

    People of Jewish heritage have an IQ SD 15 points better than the RoW’s IQ SD.

    I am willing to guess that many people will not contest the 1st fact, but some people will contest the 2nd fact.

    My point is males and females are NOT the same and therefore are NOT equal – at least at the higher-end of an IQ distribution. Should we enforce a counter-Darwinian narrative just because some well-meaning political zealots think it is ‘fair’?

    FTR, I am all for equality-of-opportunity but NOT for ‘equalitizaton’!

    • avatar

      Also there are some jobs women just don’t want. How many women do you see on the streets fixing roads. How many women do you see cleaning sewers or doing heavy labour. And we can say the opposite how many men work in female hair salons. In a capitalist system the gender issue will resolve itself because companies hire people based on qualifications.

  9. avatar

    The “equality between women and men” that most europeans support doesnt mean the same that means for you. What most europeans support is legal equality.

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