This week, California became the first American state to adopt a law that makes it mandatory for stock-exchange listed companies to have at least one woman on their respective Boards of Directors by 2020. Failure to achieve this will, first of all, result in the company having to pay a 100,000-dollar fine. Women's quotas and other minority’s quotas are often controversial: where one person sees it as an essential part of striving for more equality, someone else thinks it is a discriminating law. What are women's quotas really about? Three questions to Linda Senden, a Professor of European Law, an expert in the field of European equality of the sexes and a member of the UU hub Gender and Diversity.
Arrangements for quotas often solicit many emotions: both positive and negative. One common argument is that they are discriminating to, in this case, men. Is this indeed the case?
Senden: “A quota arrangement is not discriminating in and of itself, but merely aims to prescribe a certain result. There are many forms of this in practice because such an arrangement can involve various measures in order to realise the quotas, but that nuance is quickly lost. That's why there are so many discussions about them. It doesn't have to be a strict arrangement at all, for instance because it only sets a target as well as procedural obligations that help to achieve said target, but have no sanctions if the target is not achieved. In the case of preferential treatment, which can be part of a quota, being equally qualified results in a preference for the minority group in question, which is the woman in this case. The tendency with equally qualified candidates is to choose the men.