A few decades ago, the feminist movement was demanding equality for women. As a result, modern democracies adopted the quota system that obliged the increase of women in every facet of public life on the basis of a fixed pre-compulsory rate.

Especially in politics, this measure became very popular and served as an impetus for women to break the glass ceiling and rocket into national and international politics.

On 20 November, the European Parliament passed new legislation requiring publicly traded companies in the European Union to improve the gender balance among their non-executive directors. 

The new law is aimed at increasing the number of female non-executive directors to at least 40% by 2020 and to encourage a flexible objective for executive directors.

However, the quota, as a measure, is nothing new. It was first and foremost known, and proven rather ineffective, in the former Soviet Union. After that, it was implemented by the satellite states of the Warsaw Pact. Under these quota systems, some minority groups were granted the right to participate in public life based on the percentage of the population they represented. The measure touched on the ridiculousness of the Soviet Union which established local science academies in each federal and autonomous Republics.

In Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, for example, officials established academies where scientists were recruited, not based on experience or merit, but on the percentage they represented as a national group. As many Tajiks as their percentage in the total population of Tajikistan, as many Russians, and so on. 

The same absurd practices of the quota system were applied in Romania where even the non-existent population groups like the Greeks became members of the (communist) parliament.

But let’s look at the quota system today. Is it of any real value? Is it true that the various obstacles that hindered or prohibited the professional advancement of women have yet to be overcome? Even in the EU? Is it still not possible for ethnic or religious minorities or the disabled or gays and lesbians to access any kind of profession in most of the EU countries?

Of course, there is still a long way to go before the ultimate gender equation in start-up and opportunities is reached by European societies. But what about the Roma  who remain hopelessly excluded? Second generation immigrants and the disabled are even despised in many EU countries. Many countries do not even have the infrastructure to provide basic access to the disabled. 

The issue that arises is therefore an issue of basic human rights. The full assurance of the rights of any minority also determines the extent of a democracy in a society.

But can this issue be resolved by applying a quota?

As regards professional and political life, the gender quota ultimately results in the forced selection of unqualified women and the rejection of qualified men. And why is it that the quotas are limited to women and have not been extended to include the Roma or the disabled? Isn’t this unfair?

Does the mere existence of a gender quota system suggest women may not be able to succeed without it? What does this say about modern democracies? Not so flattering, is it?

Seriously speaking, imagine what life would be like if it were determined by quotas? Would it be a life in which some benefit more than others just because they belong to a specific group? What about those who are not in the ‘right’ group?

The measure of quotas is another form of tyranny – the only difference is that it is wrapped in the beautiful mantle of equality. Today, the quotas system that concerns women is widely accepted. But what if tomorrow it will be a quota for age? Or a quota for hair colour or height or maybe nearsightedness?

What would life be like and who would still be qualified to speak about equality?