Why Positive Discrimination Is an Absolute Necessity.

Why Positive Discrimination Is an Absolute Necessity.

I’m mindful of the similarity in one sense of the principle applied that ‘if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear’. That is all well and good except you are not the one who is deciding what needs to be hid or feared.

If residing in Uganda, you have to hide your sexual preferences – homosexuality is punishable by death.

If you were a 1940s Polish Jew, you had to hide your religion. Being a Jew outside of Nazi Europe –  then fair enough, nothing to hide.

The civil rights blogger in Saudi having to hide his identity as his words to the authorities are treason and treason attracts the lash.

So a parallel principle applies with the old boys club.  You have nothing to hide being a woman but plenty to fear concerning bias.

Men and women will tell me positive discrimination is bad because selection should only be based on the best person for the job.

There is a fundamental problem with that notion.

The problem is the old boys BELIEVE THEY ARE CHOOSING the best person for the job, it just so happens that that person is the grey haired middle aged white guy… again. Our prejudices are so ingrained that it is tough to see outside of them, so when the female candidate rocks up they just can’t SEE how good she is.

They honestly, with good heart and intention believe they have chosen fairly and chosen the best person.

In the world of a diverse workforce, at the top end, nothing’s going to change as long as that belief system is doing the choosing.

That is why I believe in establishing quotas of women on Boards, male dominated occupations, in the armed Forces or Police and other places of the ‘established network’. (Indeed why are they male dominated occupations? Generations of the ‘best person’ being chosen therefore maintaining the status quo).

You are not going to pick the best person for the job if you can’t even see her.

The old boys are not universally or, even likely bad boys.  Maybe lacking in self-awareness, not mature enough emotionally to see their own prejudices and acknowledge inherited beliefs. That’s a process of education not castigation.

To some extent we are all ‘brainwashed’ by our deeply stored thoughts. If I am walking down the street and see a group of loud, teenage boys coming towards me my immediate instinct is ‘this could be trouble’.

They smile, fart, pass by and I note my own shame at letting the thought surface in the first place.

I’m now self-aware enough to notice the thought (after the event).

If I pass them again on the return journey, I’ll not have the ‘first judgmental thought’ and instead I’ll see them for their normal teenage energy and boisterousness.

In what seems a contrary admission I’m grateful that I notice the ‘prejudicial thought’ pretty quick these days. I’ll still walk into a meeting (in a male dominated industry) and having not been tipped off its a mixed crowd, I might assume the boss is the bloke and the females present are lower ranking. It might take me 0.05 of a second to catch that thought and adjust my viewpoint.

Is that pleasant or easy to admit? No, but it’s the truth and those males who are honest enough to enter this conversation will also admit to thoughts they’d rather not have.

That is why the Buddhists believe awareness is everything. You can’t stop a thought surfacing – but you can arrest it pretty damn quick and evolve to a higher level of thinking – with practice.

Am I therefore sexist, ageist, racist for having biased thoughts? No absolutely not. This is not 1984 – thought crime does not exist – yet.  Discrimination and alienation of ‘the other’ sickens me – I’m just honest with myself in acknowledging the unpleasant thoughts that sometimes appear out of the dark caverns of my highly impressionable mind – that has been subject to 50 years of environmental and social conditioning and influence.

The motivated ones might take this internal enquiry on as a project of intellectual and spiritual development to effect the culture of bias.

In the meantime, gents let set some quotas – take action, it’s what we are good at.



Image by Mike Licht



Paul Fox

Paul Fox has been active as a Construction Industry Performance Coach for the last 20 years and remains at the forefront of Collaborative Working and High Performance Team Behaviours. He disrupts the status quo of individuals, project and senior teams who want exponentially more output with much less struggle.

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