Quotas Can Be Good
Sarkozy names 7 women to French Cabinet
By JAMEY KEATEN, with contributions by Associated Press writers Elaine Ganley, Jenny Barchfield and John Leicester in Paris
May 18, 2007
PARIS - [New French President Nicolas Sarkozy named his Cabinet on Friday, poaching from rival political factions and handing women a prominent role in a smaller government team tasked with reforming France and pulling it out of the economic doldrums].
Rachida Dati, a woman with North African roots, was named justice minister in France's new Cabinet on Friday, an appointment rich with symbolism that the law will be colorblind in a nation still coping with the fallout from riots across immigrant-heavy neighborhoods two years ago.
She was one of seven women that President Nicolas Sarkozy, himself of Hungarian immigrant background, appointed to his 15-member Cabinet — making good on a campaign promise of gender balance after decades where women often played secondary roles or were outnumbered by men.
Women here did not get the vote until 1944 and only 14 percent of the national legislature is female. But France now has one of the highest numbers of women ministers of any country in Europe.
Never before has a woman with family ties in France's former North African colonies been given such a high-ranking ministry, said Sarkozy spokesman Franck Louvrier.
Dati, a 41-year-old lawyer, was raised in a housing project in the winemaking Burgundy region. She is the second child in a Muslim family of 12 children from a mother with Moroccan roots and a father of Algerian background. [...]
Her appointment reached out to black and Arab immigrants and their French children who have scant regard for Sarkozy because of his tough stance on crime and immigration. As Interior Minister, he infuriated many when he described delinquents as "scum" and said that crime-ridden poor neighborhoods needed to be power-hosed clean.
"The message: if you're a woman, or have North African origins, or come from a disfavored position in society, you can still make it in France," said political analyst Dominique Moisi. [...]
While no official statistics exist because France is officially colorblind about race and religion, officials have said Muslims make up about half the prison population. France has more than 5 million Muslims whose backgrounds are most often traced to former colonies in Africa. [...]
Sarkozy also drew strong condemnation by creating a new Ministry of Immigration, Integration and National Identity to manage the inflow of immigrants and protect French values and cohesion. [...]
Sarkozy named humanitarian crusader Bernard Kouchner, a popular Socialist, as foreign minister. The defection is a blow to Socialists ahead of next month's legislative elections — and they responded by saying that they no longer considered Kouchner a member of their party.
Former Prime Minister Alain Juppe got a second life. He was given the environment portfolio — remarkable given his conviction in 2004 for a political financing scandal.
First the French-bashing: France is "officially colorblind about race and religion", but unofficially and hypocritically appointing to high position a women with North African Muslim parents is a big deal.
Women didn't get the right to vote until 1944, a full generation after American women gained that privilege,
Frenchmen wouldn't respect women until after German Nazis took over their society
How pathetic is that ?
[Corrections thanks to Harry]
Obviously, the main way in which France is superior to America is in the area of historically-ignorant, self-deluded bloviating egotism.
(I'm tempted to say something about Alain Juppe, but people who live in glass houses ought not throw bricks - Edwin Edwards, Marion Barry... Actual quotes taken from Mayor Marion Barry).
OK, with that taken care of, I approve of the main point in the article. In America, women ought to be appointed to half of the patronage positions in government, and there should be a racial spoils system.
While that's not an optimal paradigm, it's an undeniable fact that the white male political elites in America have somehow never got around to cutting women a full slice of the pie, despite their "deep respect" for women, and despite the admirable political accomplishments of some very talented women over the past 150 years, especially since WW II.
So my position is that, since the Powers That Be seem (understandably) unwilling to share the franchise in a meaningful way, until we run out of competent women who are willing to serve, we should operate with an explicit gender quota system. And I'm fine with a racial quota system, too.
Note that this might seem to be at odds with my rejection of quotas for entrance to universities, but I think that elite schools and governments operate with different dynamics.
For one thing, if you don't get accepted to MIT, there's always Cow Collage, but there's only one government. If you're frozen out there, what's the alternative? Start a separatist movement?
Also, higher education rather ought to operate as an explicitly meritocratic system. With government, as in business and the military, "good enough" really is good enough. Once you're past a certain minimum level of competency, it often is irrelevant to fulfilling the position if you're extra-good - although being such might well help you to move up quickly.