Jane Caro

About Jane Caro

Jane Caro has a low boredom threshold and so wears many hats; including author, novelist, lecturer, mentor, social commentator, columnist, workshop facilitator, speaker, broadcaster and award winning advertising writer.

Goldman Sachs’ quota and the random breath testing of equal opportunity

The gender quota announced by Goldman Sachs attempts to be progressive, but it merely illustrates the sexism inherent in the industry.



I have long argued for quotas for women on all decision-making committees, be they public or private. I have a number of reasons why such quotas are perfectly reasonable and, in fact, more than fair.

The first is that we won’t get change without them. As an ex-advertising creative, I know only too well that while it is relatively easy to change attitudes, it is much more difficult to change behaviour. The perfect example of this is the eventually very successful road safety campaign against drink driving. For decades government’s, NGOs and road safety organisations ran campaigns designed to change attitudes about drinking alcohol and getting behind the wheel. They were very successful – as far as they went.

Focus group after focus group when asked whether you should drink and drive agreed unanimously that you should not. Yet, when asked whether they did, they all – a bit shamefacedly – agreed that they did. 

What changed driver behaviour and ultimately saved lives was the introduction of random breath testing – the risk of consequences for doing the wrong thing. Quotas, if you like, are the random breath-testing of equal opportunity. They don’t even have to be legislated by government to start to have effect. Indeed, Goldman Sachs have just announced a form of quota.



They will no longer prepare IPOs for companies in Europe and the US who do not have at least one diverse board member, with, as they put it, an emphasis on women. They have justified this by saying that they have researched IPOs over the last four years and found that companies going public with at least one woman on the board do significantly better than those with none. It is action (aka quotas) like this that will bring real change. It is also a significant indicator of how deeply ingrained sexism is that the superior performance of companies with diverse senior ranks is not enough on its own to make a difference.


Frankly, if we really want even-stevens, women the world over should insist on 100% for the next 2000 years, and after that – we’ll talk.


Some feminists argue that getting more women in senior positions is not what feminism should be about. I agree, up to a point, but I remain convinced that more women at decision making tables is vital. If there had been more women in the room when our current superannuation system was designed, for example, it might have taken women’s very different working lives into account and women over 55 might not now be the fastest-growing group among the homeless precisely because they have not been able to amass enough funds to support them in their old age.

But my favourite example of how women in positions of power can really make a difference is Queen Victoria. While she was mid-way through birthing what would eventually be nine children, ether and chloroform were invented. Doctors hailed it as a boon for birthing women. Church leaders were horrified. They argued that pain in childbirth was punishment for Eve’s ‘original sin’ of tempting Adam. Fortunately for birthing women everywhere (the maternal death rate was horrific at the time), the head of the Church of England for once was herself a birthing mother – the previously mentioned Queen Victoria. She grabbed the chloroform with both hands (literally, I imagine) and so made pain relief in childbirth acceptable and saved many lives.

And what are my other reasons for defending quotas for women? Well, we already have all sorts of quotas in operation. Barnaby Joyce, for example, was only ever Deputy PM because he was the leader of the National Party. Once he lost that position, he was replaced with the new Nat’s leader Mike McCormack.

Whenever the LNP is in power the Deputy PM is a quota position. The federal cabinet, regardless of its political flavour, is always full of quotas. There need to be a certain number of ministers from each state and from various factions – quotas, quotas, quotas. Most boards have quotas in fact – interstate directors, staff representatives etc.

Looked at that way, it seems the only people who can’t have a quota are women.

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This is driven even more powerfully home when you remember the blanket 100% male quota that operated in all positions of leadership, power and influence for..oh, about 2000 years. You remember the one; the quota that said only men could vote, enter parliament, keep their own earnings, go to university, preach the gospel, lead armies, captain ships, run countries, practice medicine, law or any profession, run a business, build bridges, buildings, canals or anything else you can imagine.

Every step forward for women has been made by chipping away at that ubiquitous 100% male quota. And what are women asking for now? What is Goldman Sachs rather meekly demanding from companies who want to use their services to go public? Women are asking for 30-40% representation generally, while Goldman Sachs are…um… only insisting on one!

Frankly, if we really want even-stevens, women the world over should insist on 100% for the next 2000 years, and after that – we’ll talk.





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