Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Gender Discrimination

I was reading this post earlier via Ilyka regarding women in america, and the claim made by the objectivist is that gender equality has been achieved in the US and therefore feminism is unneccessary. I know it's about a week old but the points that the objectivist made really pissed me off, his claim, as follows:

On campuses, government offices, and courthouses,

there are still endless discussions of glass ceilings and

old boys’ networks. These parables are then used to

justify preferential treatment in government hiring and
contracts, litigation involving claims of sex

discrimination, women’s studies departments

in academia, and year-of-the-woman articles about

Yup, endless discussions of things that are clearly no longer a problem because some guy wrote a book (which I referenced in an earlier post) claiming the wage gap no longer exists cause some women make more than men. Awesome, so feminism must've worked, quit whining ladies.

Or did it? This afternoon I got an IM from my former boyfriend about his sister. He was looking for information on where to report violations of the Equal Opportunity Employment acts. His little sister it seems had gone to an audio/technology store and requested an application for employment, and the people there laughed at her and informed her that they don't hire women because "its a place for 'grown up guy toys.'" (By the way if anyone (male or female) has similar issues they can report it via the instructions at this site.)

Now I can understand their reluctance to hire a young girl for a technology store, because they may not be confident in her abilities or understanding of the product. But I'm sure not everyone who works there knows everything about stereos when they start, so why not give her the chance to learn. Or if they are only hiring experience employees that is no reason not to give her an app and simply not call her back if she didn't fit their needs. But to make assumptions about her abilities or her ability to learn based soley on gender is so wrong in so many ways.

I feel that while some people are still evaluated based on superficial characteristics like gender or race that activists like the radical feminists still need to exist. One incident like this is one too many.


Averroes said...

Well, shiinobi, i agree that people are still hired or promoted based on superficial qual;ities. And i agree that it is wrong. All i can say is: try being old.

As for the woman trying to get a job in an electronics store, my experience is that salesmen who know there products are few and far between. I usaually end upp (in my usual manner) correcting what they tell me. And all I've done is a little internet wearch on the product before I go.

On the other hand, the places I have worked have generally had more women than men. Some women wouldn't promote another woman unless forced to, while others don't tend to promote men. As for the men who have power positions in these places, they tend to promote women, especially if they ae young and wear golf skirts. (Sorry, i am picturing an actual example.)

But let me try to defend th3e proposition presented a little bit. Let's reword it like this: W#hile hiring and promotion for superficial reasons continues to be a problem in the workplace, the ratio of such events being due to the applicant's being a woman to the general case has been reduced drastically.

Of course, it still exists. Just a couple of days ago, I was trying to get medical care, and i had this conversation:

Deskworker: "I'll see if I can hook you up to a doctor. Do you mind a woman?"

Av: "I'd prefer a PA."

DW: "All of our PAs in family practice are women."

Av. "OK."

DW: "Do you mind seeing a female PA?"

Av: "It matters less to me than seeing a PA rather than a Doctor."

Now, i was trying to hire a doctor here, in a sense. The questioning suggests tht the gender of doctors is important to a large per centage of people when hiring a doctor. I was shocked that it would come up. Aft4er all, we look for competence. In fact, when i brought up this point, the DW told me that they can't make statements about competence!

What i "fault" quasi-feminists for int the debate is failing to acknowledge the realities of biology. In fact, it is true that women are likely to take time oout of work to give birth and care for children. this time will obviously set them back compared to their colleagues, both male and female, who do not take time off. Workers without children are also more able to work the extra hours sometimes required to get ahead. (Long hours are now a fact of life in many fields, aided by cell phones and e-mail.) One of the traditional realities that bears attention is that fatjhers were the same as men woithout children, for the most part, assumed and forced to work without reference to their fatherhood. (I know this because I had to quit work to stay home with my daughter when she was young. my wigfe was able to get a leave of absence for childcare earlier. I was refused because i was male.)

My point, which you understand, is merely taking numbers and cpomparing them does not reflect the life choices that might have been made. i know that my taking a year and a half off work to stay home with my daughter changed my worklife and carreer forever.

I would focus on allowing both men and women to take time for childcare, which i think is vitally important. (And no, i am not getting down on single parents; rather, i think that situation is not the optimal, but one which arises and must be dealt with. As you know, the best way to produce someone in poverty in the US is to have them be a woman with a child born out of wedlock. Both the woman and the child are likely to be doomed to lifelong ppoverty.)

I would say, though, that allowing equal opportunities for men and women to engage in childcare will not reduce the disparity in the genders' doing childcare at home to zero, as the Kibbutz exp[eriments show.

So, the fact is that biology, incuding the biology of the brain and hormones, will continue, in our society to produce a "gender gap."

We would be better, in the interests of promoting fairness in the workplace, to track whether a woman who has had time off for childrearing has reached a level of a man or woman who has put in the same time, overall.

Practically, i would tell my children that childcare is one of the great experiences of life, and that with that in mind, one ought to keep it in mind when choosing a career. If i had it to do over again, i would try to find a career that allowed me to easily stay home for childcare.

Shinobi said...

I actually have the opposite problem from you, with the old thing, as being quite young some people are reluctant to hear what I am saying. And while I am always willing to listen to the opinions of those more experienced than I, right is still right, no matter how much younger someone is. Alas, life is not fair. But, fortunately for both of us it isn't legal to refuse to hire us because we're young or old or male or female or black or white or yellow.

As far as childcare goes, that's not really something I personally am interested in pursuing. (Babies frighten me) But for those who do, I currently have one coworker who just came back from 3 month maternity leave and her husband is staying home with the baby. So times they are a changing in terms of how babies are cared for and how much time is taken out. I think there is probably a lot of analysis that could be done along those lines that would be really informational especially looking at the differences in behaviors betwee the generations.

But regardless, it is not legal to discriminate against a woman who takes maternity leavee, or a 17 year old girl who wants to work in an electronics store or a 55 year old man applying for a sales job. It is illegal, and it is stupid and it is wrong.

Averroes said...

It's illegal, but they still don't want me down at "ExitZero," the extreme sports store.

I agree that those of us returning from childcare should not be discriminated against, but neither should our absence be counted the same as someone who remained on the job.

Out in Hollywood, writers can't seem to get work after they are 40, the networks wanting young, edgy stuff. A couple of years ago, an older writer submitted scripts as a 21 year old woman, and the bigs were excited until they found out who the real author was.

Discrimination is a fact, and will be as long as our society actively promotes seeing people as the member of a class.

(Indulge me here, please, I'm an old man, and my life keeps telling me stories)

i remember a particularly funny case of discrimination. Back when the first anti-discrimination regulations were beginning to be enforced, a man who had a business in NYC explained:

"I have always hired light skinned Blacks who wouldn't stand out. many of my customers would have gone elsewhere if they saw Blacks in here. But now, i only hire dark-skinned Blacks, so that when the regulators do
come, they notice them right away!"

He could tell his racist customers that he was following the law.

I'm ;looking for a business that needs an old guy to satisfy the regulators.

The Objectivist said...

I don't see what is wrong with discrimination in a private business if it is done with the owner's permission. When persons choose spouses or significant others they often discriminate on the basis of looks, race, or education. I don't see why business is any different. The usual answer relates to externalities but these relate to system-wide failure and hardly ground the sort of outrage and feather ruffling that characterizes these stories.