"Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence. We speak of 'touching' a man's heart, but we can do nothing to his head but hit it." --G.K. Chesterton

Monday, March 7, 2016

Just say 'no' to prejudiced hirings & appointments

Progress since 'secretarial pools.' (women2.com)
Today's Sun carries a front-page story about Vision Vancouver's desire to impose a gender-equity quota on the city's advisory committees. I don't usually comment on another city's policies, but since this idea and its sister idea -- employment quotas -- have the potential to spread to other cities, including Coquitlam, I think it's important to say clearly and as soon as possible that I don't believe this is a good direction. Let me explain.
My first response is, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And, since no evidence has been presented – and, moreover, I don’t see any evidence of my own -- that the administration of the city or the workings of its advisory committees, is hobbled by present recruitment (and hiring practices), I see no need of change.
I believe in equality of opportunity, not of outcome.  And, if we set quotas for women, then why not any of a number of other categories, from visible minorities, religions and IN-visible ethnic groups, to age classifications, gender orientations, and levels of physical ability. What a menacing melange of criteria that would be!
I believe in merit, not quotas. Consider the current situation in Coquitlam: the Evergreen Line Public Art Task Force and the Arts and Culture Advisory Committee (both of which I chair) are composed overwhelmingly of women. Since, a "fair" gender quota would have to apply both ways (and if not, what a travesty of inequity that would be!), it would thus deny many qualified women the opportunity to serve.
Instead of gender quotas in committees and employment, I believe in a system:
*Where employees and appointees will have the certainty that they earned their position because of their talents, and were not handed it because of an intrinsically-biased criterion.
*Where employees will have the opportunity to grow in experience and confidence, earning the respect of their fellow employees, who, in a gender-quota system, might otherwise conclude that their new colleague did not earn the job on merit.
And, anyway, who are we to tell women what they should want -- what levels of involvement and employment they should seek? The big, bad old patriarchy used to preach that. Let’s allow women to choose freely, and not dictate outcomes that aren’t supported by free choice in their area of interest.
More broadly, I support a society in which we view someone, not through the narrow lens of the nature of their sexual organs, but through a wider lens that considers their whole person.
Let’s embrace the current system instead of a system, which, when enacted at the federal-cabinet level recently, was justified by the prime minister’s dismissive invocation of the year in which we live.
So what does living in 2016 actually mean? Unconsciously or consciously, most of us equate the advance of the years with progress.
But I can’t see how an embrace of employment or appointment prejudice – that is, judging someone’s suitability for a position on the basis of their sex -- can be seen as progress.
Let us not look backward; let’s move forward with a re-affirmed commitment, not to empty and harmful prejudice, but to excellence in city government.