Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 28th May 2012 19:25 UTC
In the News This topic comes up quite a lot on technology websites, but I generally try to steer clear from it as much as possible, since I'm not the one to talk about it (you know, with me being a man and all that), however, I feel it might be a good idea to just get my opinion out there and be done with it. The topic of women in IT is a hot-button issue, so let me just go out guns blazing: assuming women need special treatment, help, protection, and affirmative action is just as insulting and degrading as outright claiming women have no place in IT - maybe even more so.
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Tony Swash
Member since:
2009-08-22

The system we used in local government in the UK was quite a good one and it was called Equal Opportunities, usually shortened to just 'Equal Op's.

First: we had to monitor and record the ethnic, gender, and where known sexual orientation, of our workforce at regular intervals. These stats were published along side similar population stats so that everyone could see which social groups were being under represented.

Second: everyone involved in recruitment had to undertake special Equal Op's training so that all interviewers and selectors of candidates were educated and trained in how to conduct fair and open recruitment programmes.

Third: Every job interview had to be scored independently by three people who kept full notes and had to use the same objective system of scoring against agreed lists of desirable skills and abilities required for the job. Those notes could and often were scrutinised if anyone felt they had been discriminated against.

Fourth: because those excluded and discriminated against in employment often could not acquire the required skills or experience, and thus a cycle of exclusion was created, it was mandatory for recruiters and interviewers to look for what were called transferable skills. For example if the ability to manage budgets was required and someone had never done that professionally but had managed the budget of a church, or voluntary association then that was a transferable skill.

Fifth: any overt expression of discriminatory or insulting opinions or abusive behaviour was a very, very serious and sackable offence.

The stated aim of the policy was that over time the ethnic and gender profile of our workforce (which was the largest local employer with over 10,000 posts) should try to match the local ethnic and gender population profiles. And over time it went from being way off profile to becoming a much closer fit.

And there was no positive discrimination.

Reply Score: 4

Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

While I'm sure the entire system as you described had a positive outcome, I'm very concerned at step 1:

"First: we had to monitor and record the ethnic, gender, and where known sexual orientation, of our workforce at regular intervals. These stats were published along side similar population stats so that everyone could see which social groups were being under represented."

This was all mandatory? As in, you were forced to answer these questions if you were to work there? I'm actually fairly sure Dutch employers cannot force you to answer questions like this, nor to keep a record of it, nor to publish such records. Mind you, I'm not sure!

The idea that my hypothetical boss (I'm actually self-employed in a female-dominated industry ;) ) would ask me my sexual orientation and record and publish my answer would make me very, very nervous. In due time, if I ever reach the point where I would start hiring people, I would never even dare to institutionalise such questioning.

Reply Parent Score: 2

JAlexoid Member since:
2009-05-19

I don't think that being one of 10'000 respondents to a statistical oriented questionnaire is something to worry about. As long as the answers were anonymous.

Though, I would not answer ethnicity question as it would be a dead giveaway.

Reply Parent Score: 2

M.Onty Member since:
2009-10-23


""First: we had to monitor and record the ethnic, gender, and where known sexual orientation, of our workforce at regular intervals.


This was all mandatory? As in, you were forced to answer these questions if you were to work there? I'm actually fairly sure Dutch employers cannot force you to answer questions like this, nor to keep a record of it, nor to publish such records. Mind you, I'm not sure!
"

Nah, its just the last sheet on the application form you fill in. You can ignore it completely, you can describe yourself as part maori, part eskimo, part scouse if you so desire. Your answers won't be associated with your name when published. There's no personal consequences to filling in the form, falsely or otherwise, or leaving it blank.

I have to say I've only ever seen the race one (usually something like [White British / Irish / Black British / Asian British / Other]) on job application forms. There is the ocasional question about religion/denomination elsewhere, but that's pretty irrelevent as most just write 'CofE' to make the question go away.

Edited 2012-05-29 12:17 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

bert64 Member since:
2007-04-23

1, there are many reasons why certain groups may be under represented, especially in government work where it is often necessary to have security clearances which are much harder if not impossible to obtain depending where you were from.

There are also cultural differences which the employer has no control of, for instance in some cultures it is extremely uncommon for women to work, and there are plenty of immigrants who haven't learned the native language (or haven't learned it very well) of the country they moved to, putting them at a severe disadvantage.

4, Transferrable skills is a good thing, there are lots of people (especially in the IT field) who have exceptionally good skills, but no official paperwork to back them up...

Aiming to match the ethnic and gender profile of the local population is simply not viable at all unless your business is extremely diverse. There are many reasons why particular groups may not want to work at all, or may not want to work in your field of business.

Reply Parent Score: 2

komorian Member since:
2012-05-29

"First" - Thom asks if it's even legal and I'm asking what's it for if you really implement Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth?

"And over time it went from being way off profile to becoming a much closer fit." - And what's your policy if it becomes even less closer fit as a result?

"our workforce (which was the largest local employer...".
Don't you think it's strange and a bit scary? But that's a topic for another article, I guess...

Edited 2012-05-29 10:27 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2