On Mending Mediocrity
A routine and lazy response to the need to use mechanisms to restructure the gender inequalities of public life is often along the lines of: “This will result in mediocre candidates chosen for their gender not their skills”.
Hilariously, and with a rather beautiful symmetry, its turns out to be the exact opposite. Quotas root-out too-comfortable and mediocre men. The Independent reports:
“Gender quotas increase the competence of organisations by leading to the displacement of mediocre men, a new study has found. The research counters one of the key arguments often put forward against the introduction of minimum quotas to promote equalityin the workplace: that such targets are unmeritocratic. While some claim targets for the inclusion of underrepresented groups lead to the promotion of individuals that do not deserve it, economists at the London School of Economics found that the reverse is true. Quotas can work to weed out incompetent men.”
The research was carried out by the LSE into the strict gender quota introduced by Sweden’s Social Democratic party for its candidates in 1993. They found that:
“On average, a 10 percentage point increase in female representation raised the proportion of competent men by 3 percentage points. The researchers observed little discernible effect on the competence of women.”
“Our main finding is that gender quotas increase the competence of the political class in general, and among men in particular. Moreover, quotas are indeed bad news for mediocre male leaders who tend to be forced out,” the researchers said.
While even the most liberal Scandic proposals such as these seem unworldly and radically unattainable in a Scotland dominated by stultifying moderation and manels, it’s worth reporting and remembering the words of the wonderful American writer Rebecca Solnit, who reminds us that this process of dreaming beyond the everyday is, actually essential:
“There are times when it seems as though not only the future but the present is dark: few recognize what a radically transformed world we live in, one that has been transformed not only by such nightmares as global warming and global capital, but by dreams of freedom and of justice — and transformed by things we could not have dreamed of… We need to hope for the realization of our own dreams, but also to recognize a world that will remain wilder than our imaginations.”
So the process of creating gender democracy in political life isn’t about “equality” it’s about expansion of the public mind and enriching the quality of our collective thinking.