Myth of Meritocracy & Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet

Nicola Sturgeon quipped that when she created one of the world’s first gender balanced cabinets as First Minister, plenty of people noting this progressive and even feminist move, asked ‘But were the women as well-qualified?’ She remarked how frustrating it was that no one ever asked if the men she appointed were well-qualified. The assumption was that giving women equal representation was a ‘favour’ whereas the men unquestionably had a right to their seats. This gets to the heart of the myth of meritocracy, something we talk about at our events. Clients often say ‘We believe in ‘right person for right job’ – we’re very meritocratic!’ 

However, the numbers don’t lie. If you believe that women are as intelligent, hard-working and capable as men, a belief most ascribe to – and you still struggle to get to equitable   leadership then you don’t by definition have a meritocracy. You have a system of habits, traditions and biases – unconscious or otherwise. And that’s what will limit the innovation of your organisation  – not the quotas or targets you fear. Let’s be very clear, at InclusIQ we hate the idea of quotas or targets, but we love their results. Since we all know ‘what gets measured gets done’ they could be the key to driving action in your organisation. 

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