What helps productive women more: gender parity quotas or a focus on competence?

What helps productive women more: gender parity quotas or a focus on competence?

Bambi would like to comment on an article entitled “Un homme qui a des couilles” (A man with balls… and, no, the content of this post is not sexual ?). This article is signed by journalist, Ms. Sophie Durocher (https://www.journaldemontreal.com/2019/08/30/un-homme-qui-a-des-couilles).

Ms. Sophie Durocher’s article focuses on parity (women vs. men) in arts and it starts as follows: “I just found my new hero. His name is Alberto Barbera and he is the director of the Venice Film Festival, one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world. When he was criticized that there were only two movies produced by women of 21 movies in competition this year, he replied that he would have selected more movies made by women “had more women submitted good movies”. In other words, I do not care about your quotas, my only criterion is quality. Oh my God, I love this man who makes fun of political correctness!”.

Well, in arts, in politics, in businesses, and in other domains, quotas have been used as an instrument for the sake of justice. Some argue the latter is necessary to help rectify under-representation of a target group. In the example above, it is about gender inequity in artistic creation, namely movies. The underlying logic is that a system of gender parity quota would help ensure parity fast (a form of positive discrimination for the sake of equality of outcomes). But the question is: Is parity (always) a good idea, to begin with… and is it so at all costs? Why are we obsessed with the equality of outcomes when we know that each success journey is unique in itself? Why don’t we focus our energy more on the equality of opportunities rather? And, most importantly, what about quality or competence (= excellence, etc.)? Shouldn’t this be our concern number 1 before anything else in any competition: People’s sex or gender, colour or accent, place of birth or religion is not what is at stake here.

Bambi can of course understand that quotas in politics may be tempting to achieve a true representation of the population. The question that could beg itself then would be: Can’t we offer supportive conditions to women who have a potential for political success in order to encourage those of them who want to jump into politics? Wouldn’t this be enough to ensure a high calibre of politicians, whether they are women or men?

Do we really need to have an imposed (or self-imposed) parity to the point of perhaps sacrificing competence for the sake of that parity? At which point do we accept that a certain person X may be more competent than a person Y, even if Y would fill a quota or, even, a genuine concern for parity?

I will give a totally different example related to a system of forced quotas. In Beirut (Lebanon) where Bambi was born, there is a political quota system to fill positions in public service; this system is based on someone’s religion (the latter is most important grouping there). This religious-based tribal system is well disguised in the democracy that apparently seems to work there. From time to time, some would question this system or its unfairness (as there could be manipulation within it by this or that group). Indeed, history has shown that no one wins when one group tries to impose its power on the rest of the groups, regardless of the group in question. However, generally speaking, Lebanese power is well-divided; All the politicians seem to enjoy their piece of the cake of power.

To give a personal fictional example, had Bambi been a resident of Lebanon and interested in politics, she could never become neither the Speaker of the Parliament (held by a politician born in Sierra Leone because his Lebanese parents happen to be Shia Muslims), nor the Prime Minister (held by a politician who must be Sunni Muslim), nor the President of the Republic (a position held by a politician who must be Christian-Roman Catholic, precisely “Maronite”). Bambi can only be nominated as an Ambassador or hold a Ministry usually held by Christian-Greek Orthodox politicians. Do you get the idea?

In relation to gender and not religion per se, it seems that perhaps the most prestigious public service position in the country is held by a woman (bravo!): Interior Minister. In the past, the Head of the General Security has been a very competent woman (now retired). However, despite this, the vast majority of politicians are men. Despite many advances, the country is still characterized by patriarchy and by an apparently modern form of the religious tribalism mentioned above (yet as democratic as the country can be). Let’s not also forget that Lebanon still has its internal and external challenges (related to heavily armed powers in the country itself and in the neighbourhood).

Bambi wonders: Do we want Canada to become like Lebanon where a forced system of quotas was implemented to keep everyone happy and avoid strife? Is this the ideal that we aspire for?

Related to the topic of gender parity quotas, Bambi recalls how last year, it was decided by the media (I believe in the UK’s BBC) that a quota would be imposed to ensure more female experts on TV panels. She remembers having thought to herself: Why? Isn’t this determined by the area of expertise usually rather than the person’s sex? Knowing this, she would wonder to herself the next time she sees a panel of women whether they have been chosen for their expertise or just to fill a quota? She personally finds this insulting, although other media professionals, would not understand her logic.

Same for any other topic like health-related ones. If Bambi needs an urgent surgery of some sort one day, she doubts that she will think of the sex/gender of the surgeon. She does not care if the surgeon is a man or a woman, a francophone or an anglophone or whatever else. All what she would care for would be competence (once again)!

Plus, if we apply this logic to all the domains, Bambi is afraid that we would end up with a mediocre society where the standards of competence are lower.

To come back to Mr. Alberto Barbera, she does not know much about him to decide if he is also her hero (like Ms. Durocher’s hero). Maybe he is not a sensitive man in real life. Who knows? However, he seems to be a courageous artist who did not hesitate to say enough of political correctness: In this edition of the competition, it turned out that the best movies were submitted by men. Live with it. Bambi feels like adding, perhaps next year, the outcome would be the exact opposite. Who knows?

To conclude, Bambi finds it reassuring to read those words of common sense from the current Venice Film Festival Director as well as from an accomplished female journalist from Québec, Canada. The excellence of the end product (whether it is a movie, a painting, or a written piece) should be the main concern/criterion in determining success. Hopefully not politics… and surely NOT (absurd) political correctness.

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