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1 in 3 Female CEOs Are Opposed to Gender Diversity Quotas


Is “quota” the magic word—or a dirty one?

Mandatory quotas designed to bring more women into the top levels of business are popular in Europe and Scandinavia; Germany, Spain, Norway, France, and Iceland all have some sort of gender quota in place. But there is still plenty of debate over the efficacy of these rules, and some nations—including the U.S.—seem unwilling to even consider them.

But where do executive women fall on quotas? While you might expect female leaders to support policies intended to bolster their ranks, the reality is a bit more complicated, according to a new survey by Australian business improvement consultancy firm Derwent Scotch.

The firm’s sample size is relatively small, just 74 female CEOs of leading international companies, but its findings nevertheless provide an interesting window into who does and does not support gender quotas—and their reasons for doing so.

Derwent Scotch asked the survey participants whether they supported “gender diversity mandates,” which it defined as “formal and explicit quotas via legislative or discretionary mandates that are aimed at promoting and addressing gender diversity and under-representation.” The majority of the chiefs—64%—said they are in favor of these mandates, while 36% said they oppose such policies.


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Why would female executives oppose policies designed to advance women? The primary reason appears to be the impact they believe these programs would have on their male employees. Of the 46 female CEOs who did not support gender diversity initiatives, 92% said that they were concerned that gender diversity policies could “contradict equal opportunity and meritocracy,” 85% said they discriminated against and demoralized male workers, and 81% believed they fostered resentment and division.

Interestingly, proponents of the mandates also based their decision on ideas of fairness and equity. Indeed, 93% of those in favor of quotas cited both the creation of opportunities previously unavailable and giving women a voice at top as their reasons for supporting these initiatives.

While the Derwent Scotch survey doesn’t provide any easy answers, it does reveal that women on both sides of the quota issue have one thing in common: a desire to treat their employees fairly and provide them with opportunity.