Women’s quotas are counterproductive and morally wrong

_ Yuri Kofner, junior economist, MIWI – Institute for Market Integration and Economic Policy. Munich, 16 February 2021.

The fight against gender discrimination in the workplace must be actively supported by society and the government. A core principle of Western democracy and the Western value community is the primacy of the equality of opportunity and the individual value of every person regardless of gender, race, religion, and many other group identities. Derived into the corporate world, this means: The selection criterion for filling a certain position has to be solely the personal suitability of a person in relation to the area of activity to be filled, not any irrelevant consideration. As a form of positive discrimination and equality of results (parity principle), the women’s quota contradicts this fundamental truth.

A quota for women not only violates Western values, but also German law: The purpose of Article 3, Paragraph 2, Clause 2 of the German constitution (Grundgesetz, GG) is solely to create equal opportunities, but not to fill all positions on the basis of gender equality for its own sake. Furthermore, the women’s quota in the private sector also intervenes in the basic rights of property freedom according to Article 14 GG, the freedom of occupation according to Article 12 GG, as well as the freedom of association under Article 9, Paragraph 1 GG [1]. Based on this legal collision, the parity laws in the federal states of Thuringia and Brandenburg have already been declared unconstitutional by their respective state constitutional courts and repealed. [2]

Moreover, the women’s quota is counterproductive: in 2019, according to the World Bank, 43 countries had a higher proportion of women in middle and upper-level corporate management than Germany (28.6 percent). These include the Dominican Republic (1st place; 50.2 percent), Honduras (2nd place, 47.5 percent), Seychelles (3rd place, 47.3 percent), but also relatively conservative countries such as Russia (8th place, 42 percent), Poland (11th place, 41.2 percent), the USA (under Trump, 12th place, 40.8 percent). [3] What all these countries have in common is that they do not have quotas for women in companies, which in turn confirms that this measure is not necessary.

In addition, the introduction of a quota for women on company boards has slowed the growth rate of the proportion of women in middle and higher management positions: In Germany, before the introduction of a quota mandate (2016), this was an average of 2.1 percent per year, afterward, it was only 0.5 percent; in Iceland 3.7 percent before (2013) and 2.7 percent after; in Finland 2.7 percent before (2010) and less than 1 percent after; in Norway 4.4 percent before (2008) and zero after. [4],[5]

Also, a study by Leeds University (2018) shows that in countries where women are positively discriminated against, women are less likely to choose the STEM professions traditionally performed by men. [6]

The logical fallacy of postmodern gender and identity politics can be further illustrated with two critical questions. First, if gender quotas are required to reduce male “dominance” in the labor market, why are they only required for influential management positions, but not for all other male-dominated professions, including mining, construction, sewage treatment, slaughterhouse work, garbage disposal, etc.?

Second, proponents of (gender, i.e. identity) quotas try to justify them as a means of “making amends” for real or perceived underrepresentation and disadvantage of a person based on belonging to a certain collective identity. So if there are to be quotas for women, why should there be no quotas for other group identities? And who will have the authority to decide which identity group is disadvantaged or underrepresented and to what extent? Already there are calls for quotas for asylum seekers, people of color, Muslims, etc. But should there also be quotas in management for the fat and the thin, for the pretty and the ugly, for the old and for children?

Instead of advancing the collectivist concept of equality of outcomes, the government should revert to Western values of equal opportunities and individual merit. If a woman chooses to pursue a career as a manager, she shouldn’t be hindered from doing so because of her gender. No more and no less.

In Western society, potential discrimination in hiring women into middle and senior management may arise for two main reasons: firstly, on the part of the employer due to the always existing possibility of maternity leave. [7] Secondly, on the part of female self-selection: a survey by Linkedin (2019) found out that women are, on average, less inclined to apply for a middle to top management position. Instead of introducing a mechanistic quota, these two main issues should be addressed by the labor and social policy framework. However, the same Linkdin study found out that when women apply for a job, they are more likely to get hired than men. [8]

Leading studies show that the most effective and necessary policy measure to increase women’s participation in the labor market is the better provision of childcare services. [9]


  1. Wissenschaftlicher Dienst des Deutschen Bundestags (2018). Verfassungsrechtliche Zulässigkeit von Frauenquoten. WD 3 – 3000 – 080/18.
  2. Siehe: Urteil – Thüringer Verfassungsgerichtshof – Freistaat Thüringen (2020). URL: http://www.thverfgh.thueringen.de/webthfj/webthfj.nsf/8104B54FE2DCDADDC12585A600366BF3/$File/20-00002-UA.pdf?OpenElement und Verfassungsgericht des Landes Brandenburg (2020). Pressemitteilung. Paritätsgesetz verfassungswidrig. URL: https://verfassungsgericht.brandenburg.de/verfgbbg/de/presse-statistik/pressemitteilungen/detail/~23-10-2020-paritaetsgesetz-verfassungswidrig
  3. World Bank Data (2020). URL: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.EMP.SMGT.FE.ZS
  4. Siehe u. a.: Smith N. (2018). Gender quotas on boards of directors. Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit (IZA). Bonn. URL: https://wol.iza.org/articles/gender-quotas-on-boards-of-directors/long
  5. Estimations by the author based on World Bank Data. URL: https://miwi-institut.de/archives/category/research/governance
  6. Gijsbert S., Geary D. (2018). The Gender-Equality Paradox in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education. Psychological Science. URL: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797617741719
  7. Bertogg A. et al (2020). Geschlechterdiskriminierung bei der Stellenbesetzung von Fachkräften in zwei männlich dominierten Berufen: Eine Vignettenstudie mit realen Stelleninseraten und Personalverantwortlichen in vier europäischen Ländern. KZfSS Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie volume . URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11577-020-00671-6#Sec16 
  8. Linkedin (2019). Gender Insights Report. URL: https://business.linkedin.com/content/dam/me/business/en-us/talent-solutions-lodestone/body/pdf/Gender-Insights-Report.pdfutm_source=website&utm_medium=backlink 
  9. Vuri D. (2016). Do childcare policies increase maternal employment? Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der
    Arbeit (IZA). Bonn. URL: https://wol.iza.org/articles/do-childcare-policies-increase-maternal-employment/long

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