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Equal Opportunities and Equality

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Perhaps a contentious issue, but for a change it doesn't feature Brexit or Boris (or the moral issues around Omo and children) . 🙈😂

Overnight I received an email from an organisation I'm a member of, advertising the next meeting and including both the proposed agenda and also details of elected office roles within the group which are currently vacant, inviting nominations.

What surprised me was that the vacancies are only open to those who identify as women. I must stress, I personally have no interest in being nominated for or elected to any of these offices, however I do strongly believe in equality and equal opportunities for all.

To my mind, a person's suitability for a role should be based on their competence, not on their gender. Surely we want the best person for the job, regardless of their gender, their religious beliefs, the colour of their skin or any other characteristic. 

Can you imagine the uproar if an employer advertised job vacancies with the byline 'Women need not apply', or 'No people of colour'? This clearly wouldn't be acceptable, as all people have the same right to be considered for the same opportunities, and selection would of course be based on their experience, qualifications and performance at interview or assessment. So why should this not be true where other genders are excluded? 

Positive discrimination can be just as dangerous as negative, and sets an unacceptable precedent that all people are not equal. 

I will of course raise this at the meeting, and look forward to some robust debate on the matter. Just wanted to get it off my chest. 

Don't worry, normal Brexit service and Boris Bashing will resume shortly. 😉

Nb. I elaborated quite a bit more re the specifics when I posted a similar message on social media, but thought it would be useful to gauge initial reactions first. 🙂

Edited by Piddly
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2 hours ago, Piddly said:

Positive discrimination can be just as dangerous as negative, and sets an unacceptable precedent that all people are not equal.

So just a disclaimer real quick that whether or not the system in the West is still rigged against women and minorities is an entirely different discussion that I'm not going to get into here because it's not really relevant.

'cause you're right. You don't solve problems with discrimination by just doing more discrimination. Or, at least, discrimination based on factors that aren't fitness for the task at hand, anyways, because that's the only sort of discrimination that actually makes sense.

Sometimes the most qualified candidate for a job is a woman. Sometimes it's not. That's okay, because as long as there's nothing inherently preventing women (or men) from getting the job on the basis that they are a woman (or man) then any problem is imaginary. And, honestly, I would find it to be pretty insulting if a business were to assume that they need to actively prevent the opposite sex (or other races, but that's not this discussion) from getting a job for me to have a chance at it. You just end up minimizing people's actual qualifications and making everything about what's in their pants.

However, the one point you're wrong on is the very last four words here - you're implying that people are equal, which is, strictly speaking, untrue. But that's not actually a problem - fact is people aren't in reality equal to other people. But that's okay. Some people will have more than others, some are better at some things than others, some are stronger than others. That's all okay, but as long as only the directly-relevant differences matter - and, to use an example relevant to the topic, sex is never a directly-relevant factor because it doesn't actually equate to any skills, personality traits, etc. It can indicate that a person is inherently inclined to be better at one thing or another (because fact is that male and female brains are just straight up different things), but it hasn't actually got anything to do with what they're capable of in reality - then there isn't an equality problem because everyone is already being treated as equally as possible.

Nobody deserves anything just because they're a man, or a woman, or anything else. Everyone has to earn their place, and that is what equality is.

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While I'll agree that hiring a less qualified applicant over a more qualified applicant for the sake of meeting diversity quotas is bad, I do think there are cases where race, sex, ethnicity, religious affiliation, etc. can be relevant to a hiring decision.

If I'm casting for a movie with a black protagonist, I'm probably better off picking the black actor who gave the second best audition over a non-black actor who gave the best audition even though make-up, rubber masks, and/or CGI would make it easy to alter the non-black actor's appearance to fit. If I'm doing a commercial for women's intimate wear, I'm naturally going to favor female models over male models. If I'm leading a project that leans heavily on Christian iconography and symbolism and want to bring a religious consultant on board to ensure I'm not misrepresenting the faith, all else equal, the applicant with 25 years experience as a Catholic priest is probably a better fit than the applicant with 30 years experience as a Hindu Priest. And if you're designing products to assist with disabilities, you're going to want product testers on staff who actually have those disabilities. And for representative bodies, there's some merit to having demographical representation in addition to geographical representation(e.g. part of me says it would make sense to reform the US senate so every stat had one man and one woman senator).

As for diversity, it's a good thing, but artificially increasing it by giving preferential treatment to rarer types when an industry is lacking in diversity isn't the correct course. Instead, we should try to figure out why the lack of diversity exists, try to remove any artificial barriers to entry, and accept the reality when it turns out the lack of diversity is due to different populations having different interests in aggregate. Also, part of me says the double standard of demonizing white-male dominated industries while ignoring low diversity in female-dominated or non-white dominated industries needs to end.

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Thanks @Sake and @Imouto Kitten, some great and very well reasoned input as expected. 🙂

To add a little context now, the organisation in question is the local branch of a political party. The vacant positions are -

Treasurer

Youth Officer (x2)

Disability Officer

Older Persons Officer

Now none of these, so far as I can make out, would have any clear and logical reason for requiring or preferring a particular gender? Had the brief specified that they were looking for members under a particular age in respect of the Youth Officer roles, or over a particular age for the Older Persons Officer, that would have been more understandable, but I can’t see why a male or female member would be any more or less suited to the positions. 

It comes across very much as a quota exercise - a case of box ticking, to show that they have the expected ratio’s of M:F in order to be regarded as ‘diverse’.

The example I gave was in respect of the Treasurer vacancy. We could potentially have a situation where 2 members are interested in stepping into this role - one of them happens to be a chartered accountant with 30+ years experience in financial management, the other can barely count to 10. If the accountant is male and the other interested party is female, we’d be in a situation where the applicant most qualified and in fact the only truly suitable candidate would be disqualified based on their gender, and the role would be filled by somebody without the basic competence required.

The meeting is in a couple of weeks time, and I fully intend to challenge this stance both in terms of it’s legality and it’s morality, as well as the obvious, common sense reasons for abandoning it! No doubt being a male and challenging a policy which is designed to benefit female members I’ll be on the receiving end of some pretty robust arguments, but I’m quite confident in my position.

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