old girls and hiring

Pearse Ward wardp at herald.usask.ca
Tue Mar 28 16:04:29 EST 1995

In article <3l7ppb$nc8 at nnrp.ucs.ubc.ca>, leblanc at unixg.ubc.ca (Heidi N
LeBlanc) wrote:

>         My arguments supporting affirmative action hiring have been honed 
> on a very talented male friend who was complaining about how he wouldn't 
> be able to get a job.  He has in fact been very successful in his search.
This does not negate the argument that "affirmative action" is
fundamentally unjust. One could just as legitimately argue that programs
(overt or otherwise) discriminating against women in the workplace are not
a problem because your mentor (see below) got a job in spite of them.
Neither argument is morally or logically defensible.

>         My basic position is that noone should be hired if they aren't 
> qualified for a job, but that there are plenty of good applicants, so 
> that shouldn't be a problem. My second belief is that there is no such 
> thing as completely objective criteria for evaluating candidates, nor 
> should there be.  After all, how else do you not hire jerks?
The problem is that so-called "employment equity" legislation mandates
objective standards. The Ontario cabinent minister responsible for
employment is on record as saying that white males need not apply for any
job in the Ontario public service, regardless of their qualifications, for
the next five years or until such times as "equity" targets have been met.
That is the natural end point to affirmative action.

My basic position is that no one should be hired if they aren't qualified.
In most professional fields, particularly in biology, qualified female
applicants make up at least 50%of the total applicants for most positions.
Therefore as long as there is a system in place to detect discrimination
(against women or other identifiable groups), affirmative action
legislation is not required. Since affirmative action is discriminatory by
its very nature it is morally indefensible to anyone who believes in
equality of opportunity. If it is morally and ethically wrong, and
demonstrably no longer needed, why have it?

>         So is affirmative action necessary? I really believe it's 
> important. 

You may believe that it is important but so far you haven't said much to
show why it is necessary.

>I know that my career has definitely been influenced by an 
> early role model, a woman who was very successful, had a family, and 
> contributed to her department in a way that was intimately associated 
> with her being a woman.  without the experience of working with her I 
> might not have made it through the grind of grad school.  Let's face it, 
> research, especially as an underpaid grad student, can be very 
> discouraging.  If you're asking yourself whether it will be worth it, and 
> you look around and see noone like yourself with a job, or a decent life, 
> how likely are you to conclude that it is worth all the hassles?  You 
> need successful role models, so it is legitimate to look for a candidate 
> who has the quality of being female, or black, or whatever, if you think 
> your department lacks that.  Notice that 'successful' matters - hiring 
> underqualified people will result in role models who  are failures.
Granted, strong role models or mentors are valuable (though  the case in
favour of same-sex role models is overstated in my opinion) but that still
doesn't make a case for the need for affirmative action to get those role
models in place. Most of the women who are now in a position to serve as
mentors, got there before the current fad of affirmative action took hold.
Certainly there would have been more of them, and their paths would have
been easier had true equity existed 20 years, or more, ago. There are
currently enough women in science to fill 50% of available positions and
serve as mentors for the next generation if equality of opportunity,
parity of esteem, and a willingness to re-evaluate traditional ideas on
how science is done (hours of work, job sharing, family leave etc) are
made the main goals rather than wasting time on "affirmative action"; a
concept whose time has past, and that never was a particularly worthy goal
to begin with.

>         Finally, there is no reason to belittle yourself with the thought 
> that you were hired "because you were ..."  All that matters is what you 
> accomplish once you get there.  And you don't see those beneficiaries of 
> nepotism thinking, "I'm inadequate, I was only hired because of Uncle Jim"
You don't see it. It doens't mean it isn't there. More to the point, you
hear other people saying "he/she is inadequate. He/she only got this job
because of Uncle Jim/affirmative action." It robs otherwise competent
people of the respect to which they are entitled. One more reason to
consign this ill-advised experiment in social engineering to the trash

> Heidi LeBlanc

              "To someone with a hammer, many things
               look like nails that need banging in"

Pearse Ward
wardp at herald.usask.ca


More information about the Womenbio mailing list