Positive Discrimination in the IT Workplace
One of our female readers argues why positive discrimination is not good in itself, but is much preferable to actual discrimination. It is the best of the only two solutions available.
This is the second article in the two-part series.
Twin Evils of Discrimination and Positive Discrimination
I am not going to argue here that positive discrimination is good. I am merely going to argue that there are only two solutions available and that, as we have to choose one, that we should pick which is the lesser of the two evils.
Of course, there is a third option and that is that discrimination in the workplace against women when it comes to promotion stops immediately, and that all promotions henceforth are on ability.
If anyone has any good ideas on how to make that happen then that is by far the best option.
In fact it is the only good and fair option.
However, I am sure that you have the same scepticism that this is going to happen anytime soon.
Two Bad options as Regards Discrimination
Therefore, with the only good option not applicable, then we have just two bad options. We therefore have to choose which is the least bad option.
I think that we can do this purely on a bean count, e.g. by measuring or estimating which is the least bad option. The option that is the least bad is the one that we should implement.
Let‘s look at the two options in turn then:-
The current discriminatory situation
At the moment, around 20% of the number of people in IT are women and 80% are men. I don‘t know why this is so, and don‘t intend to make too big a thing of it at this stage.
It‘s possible that it is because of discrimination at the entry level. It could be because fewer women have an interest in a career in computers. It could be because of the image, or they may even hear that it is not a career where women can progress too easily.
I don‘t really know, and these are merely surmises.
What I do know is that, although 20% of those who work in IT are women, only 3% to 4% of those in senior positions are women.
There seems to be a very thick glass floor in IT.
Clear Discrimination Against Women
I hope that no one is going to argue that women have less ability than men. That they don‘t make as good Project Managers or IT Managers as men.
If we put those arguments aside, then it quite clear that women face discrimination in a systematic style in most companies across the country.
This is not fair.
According to statistical probability, that means that 16% to 17% of all promotions are going to men when they should be going to women. That means that 16% to 17% of all jobs, at the very least, are currently going to people who are not the best candidates for the jobs.
Positive Discrimination in Favour of Women
Right, now let‘s look at the damage done by the other evil, i.e. positive discrimination.
If there was a quota system at all companies, i.e. that men would get 80% of all promotions and women got 20% of all promotions, then that would mean that women and men would share promotions according the 20-80 split in the industry.
OK, that would mean that sometimes the wrong person would get promotions. However, there would be no net loss to men.
The number of times that they lost out on a job for which they would be the best candidate, would be balanced out exactly by the number of times that they got promotions when they weren‘t the best candidate.
So they wouldn‘t lose out overall. Four out of every five senior jobs that became available would be for men only. Only one in five would be available to women.
What the Company Needs
Of course we have to look at the benefits to the firm and to the country as a whole. What both need is as many of the best candidates in as many good positions as possible.
There will be a small percentage of jobs that women will get now where men would have made better candidates. There will also be a small number of positions that men get where women will be the better candidates.
However, if they genuinely do have ability and are missed out, then at most all they are going to suffer is a bit of a delay to their career. The next all-male or all-female job that came along will see them in a strong position to get promotion.
The Best Option as Regards Discrimination
Therefore we can see that in the current discriminatory system around 16% to 17% of the company‘s best people don‘t get promotions that they should get. Often this is not just a delay till the next promotion comes along. It is a constant and continuous discrimination that sees many an IT women‘s career cut dead.
Nobody‘s career is going to be cut dead on the basis of sexual discrimination, via a quota system if positive discrimination is in place. The worst that will happen is that there is a short delay in one‘s career at most companies.
This may not be true at smaller companies, but one would expect that any sexual discrimination laws or new non-discriminatory company policies would be put in place at companies, with for example, more than 20 people.
Discrimination v Positive Discrimination
Therefore we have one option, continued sexual discrimination which will put a permanent block on the career of a large percentage of women, versus another option which will put no more than a delay on the career and promotion prospects of people of either sex.
The second option means that almost all of the company‘s good people will be at senior levels at the company. Perhaps not in the first position to come up, but there in some position nevertheless.
In the first option, the majority of the company‘s best people of one sex are excluded from senior positions in perpetuity.
If a General was given two options in which either 20,000 of his troops die in battle or another option where 5,000 of his troops died but these would be different troops, but if he took no action at all then the worst scenario would kick in automatically, i.e. that 20,000 troops would die, what should he do?
The answer is obvious.
It would be nice if he was able to send nobody to their deaths but that option just isn‘t available. Just as discrimination against women is not going to disappear overnight.
Leaders sometimes have to take tough decisions. Sometimes they are left with just two bad options and no good ones.
No Good Options as Regards Discrimination
I have never claimed, and never would, that positive discrimination is a good thing.
However, when the options are only two, and both of them are bad, then the choice is between the best of the bad options.
And this one‘s a no-brainer!
Both discrimination and positive discrimination do damage to the company and to the country.
However, positive discrimination does the least damage to the company or the country in the long term.
It also has the advantage of being, by far, the fairer system of the two!
Why can‘t people just stop discriminating? That would be best. However, they won‘t and that is why the lesser of the two evils, Positive Discrimination should be implemented.
What do readers think? Do they agree with Women-In-IT?
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