Thursday, June 26, 2008

UK: Equalities Bill permits "positive discrimination"

Well, it appears issues of access and diversity are not limited to US (I kinda suspected that :-) -- a story at BBC online (another story here) tells of an effort by Equality Minister Harriet Harman (photo right) "... to allow firms to discriminate in favour of female and ethnic minority job candidates." It also introduced the term"positive discrimination" to me, not that discrimination is good, but the active, direct use of discrimination to induce/produce whatever demographic outcome is the goal of the project. Feels like making a right from two (or more) wrongs, maybe even justifying means with ends (OK, I am now out of metaphors).

I am also concerned about providing such a legal tool for whatever reason, I suspect it can be used retroactively to justify bad/improper decisions/actions. For example, might I be able to hire another person of type x over other candidates that would produce a more accepted diversity and justify this choice with logic like, "our company deals with people of type x so ...." Perhaps not the best example, but it seems like legislating a policy that needs to be induced with some incentive (like profit or efficiency or access).

Still, it is my understanding that colleges do this all the time to ensure diversity across the student population, affirmative action exists ... I suppose the goal is substantially easier to agree upon that the means to get there (sounds like vacation planning).

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