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Erica Dhawan

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Davos This Week: The Quota Wars Live On

Posted: 01/22/2013 3:23 pm

As CEOs, celebrities and champagne converge on the snowy streets of Davos this week for the 2013 World Economic Forum, the media is enjoying its own spin on the world's most exclusive event. While the mix of people at the event is slowly changing with the rise of World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders, Global Shapers and technology entrepreneurs, there is one population that remains quite the same -- the overwhelmingly low ratio of women to men at the event and the whispers of the quota system in the air.

So why, after years of dialogue, am I still bringing up gender quotas? And how do quotas, an old topic for many, make a difference in these cases?

I am writing this piece because many Gen Y women believe that quotas seem to be something they do not think is necessary. Many nod in agreement with Sheryl Sandberg, a Gen X woman who I deeply respect, who doesn't believe in them, while turning their backs on Baby Boomer women leaders such as Pat Mitchell, Lara Liswood and Gloria Steinem, who continue to emphasize their importance.

However, I'd like to offer my own Gen Y take on the topic of quotas. Quotas are "controlled experiments." Depending on how you look at them, they help us test new ways of orienting and devising solutions for the future. For example, when Norway launched their quota system in 2003 requiring at least 40% of the board members of listed companies to be women, Lara Liswood, founder of Council for World Women Leaders shared that four interesting results happened on boards:

1) The men started reading all the materials.

2) There was a deeper focus on long-term rather than short-term results.

3) Decisions moved from the bar to the boardroom.

4) There was an emphasis on stakeholder rather than shareholder views.

With women still only making up only 17 percent of Davos, we are moving closer but we are not moving fast enough. There is still a long way to go.

And yes, I agree we should not receive preferential treament according our gender, yet we still figure out how we can experiment in the system to get more voices heard and more equitable discussion for the masses. I believe quotas must remain an important experiment to drive better problem solving in the future.

How are you tackling quotas in your workplace? Do you have strategies to recruit a pool of diverse talent -- diversity of backgrounds, experience and ideas? We might not be able to change Davos, but we can change our own teams and companies to generate better ideas, leaders, products and services.

Erica Dhawan is a globally recognized leadership expert and keynote speaker teaching business leaders and companies specific strategies to unleash performance of teams--ranging from team alignment, multi-generational engagement, women's leadership, and innovation. Subscribe to her updates at ericadhawan.com or on Facebook and Twitter.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The World Economic Forum in recognition of the latter's Global Shapers initiative. The Global Shapers Community is a worldwide network of city-based hubs developed and led by young entrepreneurs, activists, academics, innovators, disruptors and thought leaders. Aged between 20 and 30, they are exceptional in their achievements and drive to make a positive contribution to their communities. Follow the Global Shapers on Twitter at @globalshapers or nominate a Global Shaper at http://www.globalshapers.org/apply.

 

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