Adam Creighton has an interesting article which cogently argues against quotas. Let’s take one example: Treasury has an objective for 35 per cent of its senior executives to be women by 2016. According to the 2011-12 annual report, there were 80 senior executives (including the secretary) of which 21 were women (26.25 per cent) and 59 were men. If Treasury keeps the same number of senior executives (and there are far too many), that would mean the number of female senior executives should increase to 28 and the number of males fall to 52 by 2016. Alternatively, if the number of senior executives is reduced to 60, then the 21 females would be exactly 35 per cent of the total – that would be to reduce the number of male senior executives by 20 which is a 1/3 cut in their numbers.
Being generous and allowing 4 years to reach the target (rather than 3 years from 2013-2016), and assuming around 5 per cent of senior executive positions change each year (ie: 4), Treasury would need to appoint 3 out of the 4 vacancies in each of the four years to women to take the numbers to 35 per cent (there would be 28.8 women and 51.2 men for a total of 80).
That means a drought for male promotions to the senior executive for quite a number of years.
Alternatively, the secretary could just select the 20 worst performing male SES officers and sack them to take the total number to 60 and therefore the 21 females being 35 per cent of the total.
In any case, it does point to the rather arbitrary nature of quotas.
Alternatively, Treasury could offer subsidies for sex change operations.