I recently spent a couple of days on business in the wonderful ‘Granite City’ of Aberdeen on Scotland’s north east coast.
Due to the distances involved travelling from my home in Hillingdon, I took the newly instigated Virgin Little Red flight from Heathrow – It featured male cabin crew and a female pilot who put us skilfully down on the tarmac despite awful cross winds and the bane of all nervous flyers such as myself, turbulence.
During the approach, my mind flicked back to an event I was invited to in August by the IEA (Institute of Economic Affairs) regarding equality in the workplace. This meeting was triggered by proposed EU legislation (Since partially passed) demanding a 40% quota of women in non-executive positions in the boardroom of publicly listed companies by 2020.
Amongst the speakers were entrepreneur Jo Fairley (Who founded the Green & Blacks chocolate brand), Dr Clare Gerada (Chairman of the Royal College of GP’s) and the IEA’s own Professor Ruth Lea. Also in attendance and giving his own view on the legislation was Godfrey Bloom MEP, who sits on the EU’s Women’s equality committee.
The consensus at the end of the event was that people should be in their position and/or promoted on the basis of ability rather than gender – A position I agree with, especially after the skilful landing in adverse conditions I experienced by Captain McDonald!
Herein lies the rub – In the world of aviation, what percentage of pilots are male vs female? I would wager that the men outweigh the women by a significant amount.
Now look at what could happen if a gender quota system were introduced. Being a nervous flyer, I am told that my captain for the flight is a woman. Is she there because a certain amount of pilots have to be of a certain gender, or because she is the best pilot available for the job? More to the point, if she IS the best person to fly the plane, is it in the back of her mind (Thus undermining her confidence) that she only got the job because of the quota? Will her male counterparts respect her for her ability, or will they have that little doubt in the back of their mind that she got the job because she is a woman?
Now apply that to the legislation in the boardroom – The same applies to the ladies here, who will be undermined by the quota and it could also hit the companies shares rating as investors may look at a bad decision and attribute it to a sub-standard board member.
Allow ability to shine through opportunity
My UKIP colleague, Janice Atkinson (left), recently wrote about the same event and has pointed out that the only way gender imbalances will be rectified is through education – How can women prosper in certain areas of industry when our system puts so many more young men forward for degree courses in physics and maths than young women?
Likewise, there are huge gender imbalances the other way in areas such as primary school teaching and nursing where the educational system almost pigeonholes these positions for the girls – My experience of this in the schools system with my step children has not been great, with headstrong young men lacking male role models alongside respected women teachers as I had the benefit of whilst growing up.
Gender quotas in Politics
Nowhere can the absurdity of gender quotas be seen to greater effect than in the world of our political elites. The Labour party are quite open about promoting a certain amount of people to ‘balance’ their front benches on both gender and racial lines, whilst the Tories are pushing for a 25% representation of women on the boards of FTSE100 companies by 2015 in line with proposals from The Davies Report – Despite a large increase in the numbers of women on boards anyway by dint of their ability. (Source – Conservative party website)
In UKIP, we adopt a completely opposite attitude – Our MEP candidates, after carrying out an assessment and screening process, were put up to our members for selection. The result? – A balanced list where our candidates, both male and female, have earned their position by their ability and the votes of their peers, as it should be.
Surprise, surprise – We have lead candidates in both the West Midlands (Jill Seymour) and Yorkshire and N Lincs (Jane Collins) who are women, with an impressive array of talent across the country such as Margot Parker, Diane James, Dr Julia Reid, Louise Bours and Janice Atkinson herself all well up the candidate lists and with realistic chances of the public electing them to the post of MEP. All are there on merit and are recognised by their colleagues for what they are – Dedicated campaigners who will put our country first in the Brussels bearpit without flinching.
Could you say the same about a candidate who may or may not be there as part of a ‘quota’? I think that conclusively proves the point.
Details of the gender quota vote can be seen here http://www.euractiv.com/socialeurope/meps-back-commission-gender-equa-news-531099