The best person or the right person for the job?

The City and Big business reject the idea of quotas as a way of ensuring board rooms are more representative they claim it’s about appointing the best person for the job. So why it is the best person is so often a man? Could it be that what they really mean is that they seek to appoint the right person, the one that will fit in, the one we feel most comfortable with, someone we could work with who shares our values, comes from a similar back ground, shares our sense of humour, interest in football, dresses like us, talks like us and is like us.

It’s not just in the private sector where recruiters think like this. If you have ever sat in on a member interview for a senior management post you will be familiar with the “they clearly have the experience, enthusiasm and commitment but could we work with them question”. Members may be less guarded in their language, more obvious about how they are deciding but isn’t this what’s happening in most interviews?

In local government we have tried targets and action plans to achieve a work force reflecting the local population profile. This has undoubtedly raise the profile of recruitment monitoring, focused attention on the recruitment process and led to some good practise like gender balanced interview panels but it has also highlighted the gap between the aspiration and the reality particularly in senior management posts.

What would be so wrong with introducing quotas? If we believe that our boardrooms and senior management teams are losing out because they intentionally or unintentionally discriminate against women why not an all women short list? Are we saying that we could not find enough women with the skills, experience and knowledge to make up a short list? And yes I would extend this thinking to the recruitment of people from ethnic minority groups and people with a disability.

Next question at what level do we set the quota?  

Blair McPherson author of An Elephant in the Room a guide to promoting equality and diversity in the public sector published by Russell House   




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