FORCING companies to fulfil a gender quota is divisive and can cause unintended harm ("Have more women in leadership roles? Govt can set example" by the Association of Women for Action and Research; Monday).

We risk placing less-deserving women in positions of power over more-deserving men, which goes against the principle of meritocracy that we embrace.

In fact, this places unnecessary pressure on these women to perform because of the "special treatment" they have received. It may even spark a backlash against them as they may be perceived as being unworthy of the position.

It is easy to attribute the dearth of women directors to gender discrimination, but the underlying issue is the paternalism of our society.

If we truly regard the opinions of women as valuable to firms, more should be done to increase their access to the workforce.

It is important to distinguish between access and choice.

Women have the choice to enter the workforce, but it is difficult for them to do so if men are unwilling to take on family duties and if our society does not move away from the male breadwinner stereotype.

The importance of female representation in leadership positions has been clearly outlined. A gender quota, however, is not the solution; it is a blunt tool that treats the symptoms but not the cause.