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The Gender Debate On Merit Is Old And Boring

11/03/2015 05:33 EST | Updated 11/03/2016 05:12 EDT
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc via Getty Images
Businesswoman talking to colleagues in meeting

All these years later, I would have hoped that the gender debate on merit would have ended. Alas! It is not to be.

Early in my career, employment equity took hold. It caused much bitter complaining that such human resource department meddling had no place in the meritocracy we called our workplace. Many of the old boys pushed back. They got here on their own. Women should do the same. They actually believed it.

The latest resurrection of these arguments is fuelled by Justin Trudeau's promise to have equal gender representation in Cabinet. Imagine the outrage of having a country where just over half its population being female being represented by females. Yes, there are more women in Canada than men. Thank Goddess!

The problem is that the old boys fail to understand that they have their own hard line form of employment equity. They were (are) convinced that only men merit all of those corporate board seats, corner offices and big salaries. Did I say that there are more women in Canada than men?

A little historical research would be helpful in determining how fine a job us guys have done in ruling the world. Even if one just limited the search to performance by Cabinet Ministers, it would not be flattering.

No doubt the anti-gender equality forces will be dissecting the CVs of all the new female Cabinet Ministers with an eye to proving their thesis. They will be disappointed to learn that Trudeau has enough talented and qualified women to fill these posts. Arghhhh! Yes but! Not fair! Blah blah blah!

Trudeau's team includes former provincial and federal Cabinet Ministers, a retired lieutenant colonel who was Canada's first female base commander, a former business writer and executive at publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Thomson Reuters and a former regional chief of the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, to name a few.

Besides being self-serving and untrue, the merit argument is boring - eye rolling-lie boring. As Marilyn Monroe once said "it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring." In this case, the anti-gender balance folks are ridiculous and boring.

If in fact employment equity has led to so much unfair benefit to women, one would expect better results in corporate Canada. This from Catalyst:

"In fact, the 2013 Catalyst Census: Financial Post 500 Women Board Directors finds that only 15.9 per cent of board seats in corporate Canada are held by women, an increase of just 1.5 percentage points since 2011. Approximately 40 per cent of companies had no women board directors, and although one-fifth of companies have 25 per cent or more women serving on their boards, more than one-third have zero women on their boards."

In case the boys have missed it, Catalyst members include many of Canada's blue chip organizations. At least these companies have the vision to accept the issue.

It is nice to see the government of Canada showing leadership in its Cabinet making. Fifty per cent is a good and fair target, but let's hope it is just a start (insert smiley face here.)

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