EU-Set Quotas For Women "Wrong Way Forward"

13 March 2012
SNP MEP Alyn Smith has today voted against the introduction of EU-set quotas for women on corporate boards and in politics, though the Parliament as a whole did back the calls, in two non-legislative and non-binding reports with no effect.
Quotas were proposed in two reports which were voted upon by MEPs today, one by Finnish MEP Sirpa Pietikäinen on women in political decision-making and the other by Dutch MEP Sophia in t'Veld on equality between women and men in the European Union 2011. The full Parliament in Strasbourg adopted the Pietikäinen report by 508 votes for, 124 against and 49 abstentions, and the In t'Veld Report by 361 votes to 268, with 70 abstentions, and both eventually included the text calling for the introduction of quotas to address the current gender imbalances. While voting specifically against the introduction of quotas in both texts, Alyn did support the eventual reports given there were a number of other reasonable points in each text and the reports have no immediate impact.
Alyn said:
"My own position on equalities is probably best summed up as 'everything but quotas'. The idea that the EU should become involved in mandating companies, governments or political parties to alter selection rules is only going to undermine equalities and build resentment, and I flatly do not see this well-meaning call going anywhere, hence so many of my colleagues felt safe to back it.
"Scotland certainly has more work to do on equalising numbers of men and women in politics and in business but however we choose to counter this imbalance, it should be up to the Scottish Parliament to decide, not the European Parliament. We would also do well to remember that equalities is about more than gender balance.
"It is undeniable that there is a problem to be solved in how we can encourage and support more women working in business and politics. Nevertheless, the number of women who have broken through that glass ceiling and have taken their place in these sectors are there - without question - thanks to their capabilities and sheer hard work. To introduce quotas now only results in somehow demeaning the achievement that these women have made, and raises questions as to the validity of the accomplishment. Was it their abilities that got them the position, or was it because they ticked the 'female' box on the application form?
"Ultimately, if we improve support and conditions for women who want to work, then numbers will increase without the assistance of quotas. Access to flexible forms of employment, including teleworking, in order to achieve a better balance between work and family life, and the security of being financially independent, would all make a positive difference.
"Our employers should be looking for the best person for the job, based on ability, not on gender, race, creed or sexuality, and they should be able to do so without their hands tied by quotas set by administrative fiat in Strasbourg."