Diversity quotas. A fine line between patronising and diversity

Gurjit Degun
26 February 2014

Gurjit Degun © Akin Falope26 February 2014 | Gurjit Degun

A recent CIPS Fellows event on women in procurement sparked a lot of debate about a lack of women in senior positions and what companies should do about this.

The event held on the HQS Wellington Ship in London last week, ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March, heard research from AT Kearney, in association with the CBI, predicting the rise of the female buyer.

The report said that women account for one third of managers, directors, and senior officials in the UK, and three out of five UK B2B businesses say a different approach is or may be required to sell to female customers. This included altering the gender mix of teams in sales meetings and changing negotiating strategies.

Members of the audience agreed with results that showed a mixed team achieves a “better-rounded workforce, with improved utilisation of talent and with faster and more even-handed decision-making”.

One member of the audience said after the event that he feels his team needs more diversity so instead of giving the job to the first man that comes along, he’s waiting for the right woman for the job.

Another said around 20 years ago his decision to employ a woman was questioned by HR, but he responded by saying that gender does not matter, it’s about who’s best for the vacancy.

This particular individual has always believed that everyone, regardless of their gender, should be given a fair chance. It does illustrate the fine line between diversity and patronising. How many women want to join a company to help it meet its quotas? Surely they want to be the best person – not woman – for the job.

Dara O Briain’s comments on the BBC’s ban on all-male lineups for panel shows rings true. According to the Independent, he told the Radio Times that future female guests will appear as the “token woman”.

Would you want to be a token on a board? How do you decide on the gender mix in your team?

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