Women's quota for role models: why women have worse opportunities


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Women are under-represented - in the Swedish Guard as well as in German management. What can science do about it? Best of HR – Berufebilder.de®

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Prof. Dr. Niels van Quaquebeke 46Prof. Dr. Niels Van Quaquebeke Professor for Leadership and Organizational Behavior at the Kühne Logistics University.

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Women under management

When climbing the career ladder, women still have many hurdles to overcome. Implicit leadership theories offer an explanation. For many people, "woman" and "leadership" are apparently less cognitively associated with each other than "man" and "leadership". We have examined this in more detail.

Above all in German top management positions women are still rather rare. According to the Federal Statistical Office, today only 30% of women's senior positions are held.

Only 26% female managers

Manager databases show a similar picture: in Germany, only 26% of staff in middle management as well as 11% in top management as well as in supervisory bodies.

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Scientific studies show that this picture is partly due to systematic discrimination against women in the workplace. For example, women have to perform better in work assessments to obtain promotions, which usually lead to positions for which they are paid approximately one-third lower than their male counterparts, or are often promoted only when there is a high probability of Failure on the higher position exists, the so-called glass-cliff phenomenon.

Entrepreneurial short-sighted, ethically questionable

While such a practice is still short-sighted, it is above all ethically questionable.

In Germany, therefore, since 2006, the General Equal Treatment Act has been designed to prevent or eliminate unjustified disadvantages on the grounds of race, ethnic origin, religion, belief, disability, age, sexual identity or gender.

Where is the quota already?

For this purpose, corporate as well as national committees rely on so-called quota regulations. A current example of this can be found at Deutsche Telekom, which prescribed a women's quota in leadership positions from 30% to the year 2015.

Even more concrete, it can be found in Norway. Here, 2006 has already been set by law to have an 40% women's share of the supervisory board. Company, which do not meet this quota, threatens the dissolution after a grace period of two years.

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Positive as well as negative reactions

From a psychological point of view, such quotas are useful to increase the number of female executives and thus reduce long-term prejudices. However, in many cases, quotas provoke negative reactions in both sexes.

Quotations often make men feel unfair, as they are disadvantaged with equal qualifications. Women, on the other hand, fear that quotas will create another form of stigmatization that will lead them to fight even more prejudices. Quota rules thus seem to be rather counterproductive, at least in the short term.

Prototype conceptions: Managers are male!

Research shows that prototypical ideas about leadership are still heavily interwoven with male attributes and roles, thus providing an implicit source of unequal treatment.

In our study, we wanted to find out whether dealing with images of female executives can shift the classical image of male leadership in favor of women, and thus change implicit cognitive patterns.

Our results

We want to show how gender equality efforts can be supported without causing further stigmatization.

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Incidentally, we have published the entire study with all footnotes in the Zeitschrift für Arbeits- und Organisationspsychologie A and O (Volume 54, Number 3 / 2010).


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  1. Simone Happel

    RT @bpermantier: Readable! Psych.Studie the model function of the women's quota via @SimoneJanson

  2. birgit permantier

    Worth reading! Psych.Studie the model function of the women's quota via @SimoneJanson

  3. Competencepartner

    Series & Study: Quota for women as role models? Why do women have worse chances ?: Fr ...

  4. Simone Janson

    @bpermantier @ julia_witt @anked @annnalist psych.Studie z.Vorbildfunktion d.Frauenquote-what BaschaMika yesterday i.TV said

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