“I object to my name being used in this way” – such were the intense and emotional words of a statement of Judith Butler, one of the world’s most renowned cultural scientists, to the Lund University of Sweden.
What had happened?
Last year, Eric Ringmar, a lecturer in the political science department was forced by the department to add a text by Judith Butler on the class reading list because “there were not enough female authors on the list”. The department follows a self-imposed rule of thumb to have at least 40% female authors on the reading list of each class.
The department decided to change the list and to include a title of Judith Butler.
Ringmar refused, saying the quota rule was against the spirit of academic freedom.
The dispute escalated.
And it caught the attention of Judith Butler herself. Prof. Butler is a world renowned scholar, teaching at the University of California Berkeley. Her key statement was: “I am not in favor of my work being imposed by quotas”.
Now we can hardly say that Judith Butler is against giving women a voice in a world dominated by men, on the contrary: Judith Butler is herself a gender theorist and known for her active role in the feminist movement.
But in my view, the point she made is bringing equal rights and voice for men and women to the next level.
Why? Because it insists on validation and valorization processes in which gender does not deliver a criterion any more.
If you think about it – is it not equally discouraging for every woman to follow the depressing discussion on women´s quotas in C-level positions of Fortune 500 companies? Or for any quota for women´s presence in project teams, board meetings or speaker lists of conferences.
Germany has established a quota for women within the board of directors for DAX companies. Since launch, the share of women has increased from 23% to 25% within 2 years.
Of course, the idea is to achieve more gender balance in leading positions, making sure to fully leverage and embrace the potential of all these highly qualified and talented women, who have a hunger for success equal to that of their male counterparts.
However, to keep up with Judith Baker – ‘I have never thought that ‘counting’ is the best way to achieve gender equity.’
As much as quotas and looking at statistics are helpful and necessary to fuel the discussion and create awareness around women in leadership roles, it is time to take it one step further.
In the old days, people would say about a woman in a leadership position: Look at that, she holds that role even though she is a woman. But if we honestly talk about today: There is no woman who desires to be in a position because she is a woman.
We want to be in positions because we are best qualified, have the right skillset, and trust in our abilities to move the business forward.
I am lucky enough to be working in a business that is run by women, enabled by women and that has women at the very core of their business – in all markets globally. At Blue449, we believe that we are nothing without our brilliant people, the team is our foundation and our spirit. We know that none of us is as good as all of us – men as well as women.
Gender equality is when women are hired or promoted whenever they are better qualified, and not because they are women. Collectively, we can all play a part in this. Let´s #pressforprogress. Question you or your colleague to be part of something ‘because we need more women’. Challenge assumptions about women. Lead by example. And stop counting.