Women: We Don’t Need Special Favours - Just A Level Playing Field

Business Woman

The great debate.

In recent weeks the long running debate about positive discrimination in favour of women has had one of its periodic bursts of activity – not least on the back of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”.

It is an important debate with no easy answers. On the one side there is the apparently clear cut logic that we could find a shortcut around generations of prejudice through the application of quotas for women in senior roles. On the other hand, for women who typically have to run twice as fast as their male counterparts to get to the same place, the perception (or reality) that they've been patronised by a free pass created by a quota is deeply unappealing.

Much less debated is another (less important) matter with the same dilemma at its heart - the widespread number of events and groups with the prefix of the word 'women'.

Should we be pleased that after a history littered with golf clubs and clubby clubs on Pall Mall we too have our own networking events and societies where entry is either limited, or at least sign posted by gender ?

Perhaps it is wrong of me to have a slightly allergic reaction to all these "women" labelled events and organisations? On the one hand many of these events can provide an environment for young women in business to test their networking skills in a safe environment. And it can also enable women to share many of the challenges they may face in the workplace from childcare to discrimination and gain the insights and support from other women who have faced many of the same challenges in their time.

However, if we want equality then surely we have to fight every day on platforms, and at events, and everywhere else as equals and not look for special favours? Shouldn't we be turning up in droves at networking events or conferences filled with our peers, competitors and potential clients irrespective of gender ?

Quotas and women only labels both risk perpetuating the same myth; that as women we need special favours to succeed – we don’t. We don’t need special favours, we just need a level playing field.

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