Last week, the city of Paris was fined €90,000 for having too many women in senior positions at city hall. The Guardian reports: 

The fine of €90,000 (£81,000) was demanded by France’s public service ministry on the grounds that Paris city hall had broken national rules on gender parity in its 2018 staffing.

[Mayor] Hidalgo said she was faulted because 11 women and only five men were named to management positions in city hall in 2018, meaning that 69% of the appointments went to women.

The national rule states that “one sex should not account for more than 60% of nominations to management positions.” While this rule was likely put in place to support more women in management positions, the situation has now been reversed and there are too few men at Paris city hall. There was a 2019 rule change which “provides a waiver to the 40% rule if the new hires do not lead to an overall gender imbalance… but the rule change comes too late to avoid the fine.”

Hidalgo, however, celebrates the fine and has pledged to proudly deliver the check in person along with her female coworkers. She says that “to one day achieve parity, we must speed up the tempo and ensure that more women are appointed than men.” 

While we should celebrate the hard work and achievements of women, gender quotas are not the way to support women in their career goals. This fine in Paris may seem ridiculous to many but it shows that by focusing on promoting only women to management positions, hard working men are likely discriminated against. 

No one should have special treatment. As gender or diversity quotas are becoming more popular in Europe and across the United States, proponents should recognize that requiring the placement of individuals of certain demographic groups in senior leadership positions can cheapen the achievement for many. 

And while yes, corporate boards have previously been seen as “boys clubs,” a large reason for that was that there were fewer women in the workforce. Men were disproportionately represented because there were simply more men working. But as women have begun working in unprecedented numbers, they have been increasingly promoted to these leadership positions as they gain the expertise required. 

We should support women in whatever decisions are best for them and their specific situations, whether or not they lead to boardroom seats. Women are strong and capable and those who want to reach those leadership positions will earn them in due time, like all others, but they should not receive special treatment to help them along the way.