Thursday, May 7, 2009

I'm sure there is something wrong with this picture...

The Labour Party's deputy leader Harriet Harman seems to have come up with an interesting idea on how to close the gender gap in the UK's banking industry.
She said last night that legal powers championed by her to discriminate in favour of minorities could help achieve her ambition.
Yeah you read that right. Basically thanks to her efforts Harman has basically legalized sexism* as a way to close the gender gap. Yes in order to correct the discrimination that women have faced in the banking industry legalized sexism against men has been instated.

I find it interesting that despite women MP making the misguided at best and sexist at worst assertion that men were the cause of the financial meltdown the fear critics have is that the government will become too closely involved in daily banking operations. Yeah it wasn't the greed of the people that caused the system to crap out it was the XY chormosome combination that caused it and while the idea of Big Brother getting its hands in the cookie is suspect I'm a little concerned about exactly how its getting involved.

Now I want to take a look at one of the statements Harman made while addressing this bill, named The Equality Bill no less.
'We have to worry more than men and we are definitely worrying more about the recession than men are,' she said.
Yes her assessment of the amount of worry from men and women (and I'm sure it was a fair and balanced assessment) is justification to allow businesses to choose a woman because of her gender.

Now I'm sure there are feminists, women's advocates, and supporters of this that will quickly quote that the bill just says that employers will be allowed to choose women and minorities over "equally qualified white males without risking being sued. " Well frankly this makes me think of a problem I've always had with trying to figure out if there are -ist intentions at work. Now I'm sure there -ist hiring practices going on all the time but most of the time it seems difficult to prove that there really was. In my opinion this only solves one part of the problem while likely causing another.

Let's say I have a man and a woman up for a position that I'm filling and both are equally qualified. If I hire the man because he is a man I run the risk of being sued for being sexist in my hiring practices if I hire the woman because she is a woman that man has no recourse for the sexism he just suffered. Not a cool situation. However I won't say that this bill is totally wrong.
Proposals in the Equality Bill will force employers to reveal how much they pay men compared with women, which critics say could hinder job creation.
Now this may be useful. As Schala at Feminist Critics points out forcing employers to report data on how they pay men compared to women could be useful. However I think the simple data of who is getting paid more is useless on its own. I would say that along with that such data there also needs to be at least collection (if not reporting) of data on the position, experience, education, and probably other data on the men and women being compared. Otherwise you're just have claims of one gender making more than another with no way to know if the reports would be comparing two people that both just got out of college and are working the same industry or a 30+ industry vet with 3 degrees vs. someone with 10 years years experience, 1 degree, and has been out of the industry for 10 years.

All in all I can understand Harman's desire to see more women in the higher level positions (I guses the less glamorous position don't matter) of banking but I'm not sure that forcing a balance with institutionalized sexism is the best way to do it.

* - Now since there are a lot of people out there that insist on the loophole that one must have institutional power in order to commit an -ist action does this mean that they can acknowledge female against male sexism?