Saturday, 6 January 2007

Interpretations of Equality

I think one of the most publicised issues with employee recruitment over the years has been equality. Major milestones were the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 and the Equal Pay Act of 1970. They were in place to make sure that everyone had the same opportunities such as pay and promotion. Nowadays, we see a lot more diversity in the workplace - which is absolutely fantastic. This metaphorical 'glass ceiling' seems to have been broken by a lot of people.

However, some people seem to misinterpret 'equality'. There are people who see this as having e.g. the exact same number of men as there are women. There's nothing wrong with that if everyone can do their job to a high standard. I think that businesses have too much pressure put on them though, which cold lead to them recruiting to meet targets, and not necessarily recruiting those people who can do the job.

A recent Independent article stated that:
"Women have failed to make an impression among the elite group of rich and powerful people who control Britain's boardrooms and public bodies, according to a report published today by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).

Unless there is a dramatic change in recruitment and promotion, it will take 200 years to achieve an equal number of women in Parliament, 60 years to win parity in City boardrooms and 40 years to reach equality among the judiciary."
It relates to the report called Sex and Power: Who runs Britain? 2007. Stats from the report included:
  • 3,067 missing from among the 21,103 public appointments
  • 448 missing from among the 1,130 directorships in public sector companies
  • 233 missing from among the 751 members of the House of Lords
  • 217 missing from among the 914 Civil Service top engineers
  • 197 missing from among the 646 members of Parliament
  • 162 missing from among the 449 Council leaders in local government
  • 101 missing from among the 269 senior police officers
  • 78 missing from among the 194 senior judges
It says there are 33,000 top jobs in the UK and the missing women figures are calculated from the number of women it would take to bring the percentage up to 50%.

There are a number of holes in this report. First of all, how did they work out that there were 33,000 top jobs in the UK? This is highly subjective as one person's idea of a top job could be entirely different from someone else's. Also, I agree that 50% woemn is one definition of equality, but like I mentioned earlier, surely recruitment should be based on the ability to do the job properly - not whether you're a man or a woman. I'm sure there are a lot of women who would want to be judged on their merits, not on their gender.

Those 'top job stats' that I quoted concentrated on public sector and emergency services. What about the private sector? There are a lot of top jobs there, so they should be included. That way it can be more representative of the UK. However, there's still an argument for not including the stats at all as the word 'top' is subjective in this context.

It doesn't mention the Sex Discrimination Act or Equal Pay Act in any great detail, it doesn't make use of much private sector information and it's highly negative - not focusing on all the positive steps that have been made in employment. It's calling for positive discrimination, which is just as bad as the other type.

What do you think?