Friday, 12 February 2010

Employment equity and time

Despite longstanding employment equity policies and practices, women and First Nations continue to be under­-represented in Canadian higher education...
I fear that when we read something like this we tend to see discrimination and unfairness inherent in the process or the people involved. That may be true but it is not necessarily true.

I am a male librarian. The vast majority of librarians are female. That is not because men are systematically discriminated against in any way (in fact, a larger ratio of men to women are in library administrator positions than in general librarian positions it seems) but for other reasons related more to gender stereotyped perceptions of the profession, lack of education about what we do, and past societal inertia (IMHO).

There must be the same type of pressures on other professions and industries, though certainly not to such an obvious degree. Perhaps university teaching faculty positions simply attract more men, or that not enough time has elapsed to undo the imbalances in the demographic "raw materials" that are needed to result in more representative ratios.

More equitable employment, recruitment and promotion policies have been around for some time but since we've never lived through a process quite like this before, how do we know whether it's taking too long or not. We didn't expect things to change the day after the suffragettes marched down main street, right? Change trickles slowly through a system as complicated as human society. We like change and yet we resist it at the same time.

Then again, perhaps patience is not appropriate. It's often something like impatience that make people stand up and "not take it anymore". Perhaps continued impatience (and the resulting action) is the only thing that keeps change flowing through the system.

What do you think?

[ Quote from "Not Enough Parity on the Academic Career Ladder" from the CAUT Bulletin ]


Michael said...

I work in a foreign country teaching English. Here, I figure there are three men to one woman teachers.

Perhaps the element of risk is involved with someone determining their traditional career; men doing more 'risky' work, and women doing what is perceived to be safe or stable work.

Matthew said...

Exactly. Risk aversion/attraction could be a factor but the point is that we don't know why these "imbalances" occur. Jumping to the conclusion that there is something immoral and avoidable is certainly not called for but unfortunately, IMHO, common.