Is patronizing women called feminism these days?

“There’s no hope for me with those investment banking applications”, – I had a friend complaining. «To be at least considered, I’d have to be either gay or a woman!” I rolled my eyes in disbelief. However, a couple of recruitment events later, the irony seemed apparent: once male only professions, such as investment banking, are quite desperate to fill their female quotas. In fact, the number of female-only recruitment events oftentimes is comparable to the number of regular events.

What’s wrong with female-oriented events and the like? – you might ask. Nothing in particular. It’s just that they give me this uncomfortable feeling of being subjected to greenhouse treatment. After all, women are not a minority. Nor are they incapable of competing on equal terms with men. Then why give men yet another reason of seeing us as a weaker part of society?

If economics has anything to teach us about gender equality, it is that female quotas are not going to solve the problem of lack of women in certain industries. In fact, artificial restrictions actually worsen the problem. Just as in international trade quotas depress volumes and inflate prices, in the labor market they lead to sub-optimal resource allocation. It’s not uncommon that patronizing women at the workplace is the result of ex ante expectation of lower entry requirements for female applicants. Hence, even if a woman is professionally an equal of her male colleagues, she’ll still have to overcome this bias. Proving her worth can be emotionally draining and thus divert resources from the business.

Sweden deserves the status of one of the most egalitarian countries in the world. Paternity leave is almost as common here as maternity leave. Or so it seems from morning walks, as daddies with child carriages occupy the streets. That is a fine achievement of feminist movement. With equally available chances for self-development, women can achieve no less than men. If I had to formulate my feminist motto, it’d be: “Give us an opportunity, not a quota!”


Credit for the image: The image is taken from the movie Working Girl.

Marta avatar


  • Marta Khomyn • 24 May 2015 at 11.37 pm Reply

    Several factors might have contributed to Sweden’s advanced gender equality culture. To simplify things, I’d group them into two types: 1) superficial measures (like quotas) and 2. natural women advancement measures (like giving more opportunities for women to develop). While I believe in the second group of factors to be working, I don’t belive in the first group. In fact, the “too few female CEOs” problem can be precisely an illustration of how quotas stiffle natural advancement of women. If they need quotas to get a job, who on Earth is going to promote them to CEO level. This superficial anti-competitive mechanism has its consequences on the workplace, where women are seen as weaker part of the team, if everyone knows hoe patronizing female recruitment is.

    That’s why I argue for opportunities rather than quotas. If we want more female CEOs, let’s give women more opportunities to develop, let’s give them more flexibility in terms of maternity-paternity leaves, let’s encourage them to take the initiative. In short, let’s grow more female CEOs by hiring worthy candidates in the first place, and then coaching them, not by imposing quotas to later struggle with “too many women at the bottow of the corporate ladder”.

  • Dena
    Dena Dervanovic • 24 May 2015 at 12.35 pm Reply

    And how do you think Sweden got to this advanced stage equality? Affirmative action, which is exactly what you seem to be against. The quota system is essential for advancement of gender equality because it usually needs to be placed in male-dominated industries/areas, where women are by definition at a disadvantage to become decision makers, just because they are women. In Sweden alone, it is more likely to have more men named ‘Fredrik’ as CEOs than it is to have women as CEOs. Now if that doesn’t call for the quota system, I don’t know what does.

Reply or comment