5. Succeeding on merit
Perhaps the most significant message to emerge from our research was that women want to succeed on merit. This has considerable implications for the role of diversity and inclusion initiatives, which many of our respondents rejected as unnecessary and unhelpful.
Most of the women we interviewed, especially those of junior rank and/or limited experience, were indisposed towards “favours”. They preferred to move up the ladder on the strength of their capabilities rather than on the basis of an organisational zeal for ticking boxes or meeting quotas. All were especially scathing of being singled out as needing “remedial” assistance.
Taken together, these findings underline the value of meritocracy. This is something of which sight is too easily lost when attempting to navigate the deceptive waters that lie between genuine equality and positive discrimination. A sentiment often expressed by our respondents was that any guidance, boost or sponsorship should be seen not as a selective “favour” but as a benefit for all.
Points 1, 2, 3 and 4 above show the sacrifices women are required and prepared to make. Point 5 reminds us how all of that hard work can be cheapened – if not wholly undone – by well-intentioned but misguided schemes from on high. Diversity and inclusion initiatives have their place, but the bottom line is that nothing beats competence – and women appreciate institutional recognition of that vital truth.