A few days ago Aunti Beeb put out a job advert and even for the BBC it’s a classic example of political correctness.
They are looking to add a disabled person to their weather team, a department of the BBC that apparently doesn’t have enough disabled people. Skill or experience not required as on the job training will be provided. All that is needed is that the candidate be disabled.
So wrong in so many ways.
Firstly the BBC is classifying someone by being disabled, not by skill or ability, not by experience or talent. Just by being disabled. All those people out in the world who have overcome whatever problems life has thrown at them in order to become just another member of society who happens to have a different physical or medical condition. Why bother, the BBC says you are disabled and everything else is irrelevant. You ticked that box.
Instead of being a person who happens to be disabled you have become a disability who happens to be a person.
Next we have another message that the BBC is sending out with this vacancy:
So here you are, a fresh shiny graduate, top marks in your degrees, Maths and a specialist subject of Meteorology. You worked hard for years, gave up on a social life, you studied computer languages and programming so you can write your won predictive codes and algorithms.
You love meteorology, you want to make it your life and have worked long and hard to reach the point where you enter the job market as the best qualified candidate in the country, you have tens of thousands of pounds of debts hanging over you and that’s just your university loans. But you made it, an honours graduate, certificates framed behind glass, your family was so proud.
Time to apply for that all important first job and with the BBC no less, a world class organisation, good solid career path, stability in an unstable world. Prestige, oh what could you learn working at the BBC. Time to fill in that all important CV and questionnaire, you need to highlight all of your positives if you want to get the job.
Are you disabled? If the answer to this question is no please do not fill in the rest of the form.
When any corporate entity or public sector organisation looks at its diversity tick boxes and finds a few boxes un ticked it normally swings into action to deal with the problem. But inevitably rather than ask ‘Why’ they have less than the average of a group they simply do what is needed to solve the problem now.
Not enough women on the board or as MPs, hire more women, women only short lists, that will solve the problem, don’t worry about why less women are MPs, why less women make politics their career or stand as MPs, just use a few short lists, give people no choice but to pick a woman candidate. Make the problem go away.
Black students in your school district getting lower exam results, can’t have that. So alert the exam markers to all papers submitted by black students so they can be marked differently, given a more generous score for whatever is written. Get them up to the same level as the white and Asian students. Never mind why certain communities are doing worse with exams, just cover up the problem.
This is the problem when you look at a problem as something to be hidden, the right boxes aren’t ticked so we need to do whatever it takes to tick those all important boxes, it doesn’t matter why the boxes were un ticked in the past and once they are ticked it won’t matter that there is still a problem why women or minority groups are leaving Parliament or the board in great numbers because they are not happy there. Just tick those boxes and all will be fine.
When you are recruiting and expecting to see this:
No 1 Apple Road
Jo has numerous physical and mental disabilities and is a member of the LGBT community.
Jo enables an employer to tick multiple diversity boxes and is an asset to any company seeking to expand its corporate diversity quotas.
Then there is a huge problem and it’s not the people who are writing the CVs.
There is another problem with positive discrimination. It taints not just those subject to it but anyone else of the same group:
Manager 1. This CV looks good, top notch exam results and a few years of solid experience after graduating, some on the job training as well, promoted after only a year in the job, their BBC manager gives them a glowing recommendation. The disability isn’t a problem as we have the ramps and lifts and all our team leaders are trained first aiders plus our disability awareness is first rate.
Manager 2. Put the CV on the short list then, a disability isn’t a problem and if they are as good as you say. Wait, did you say the BBC?
Manager 1. Yes, two years with the BBC, why?
Manager 2. Two years ago, wasn’t that when the BBC were running that disability hiring program to get their diversity numbers up, they were hiring people off the streets regardless of skill or ability just because they were disabled.
Manager 1. Damn, you’re right. Well that’s a bit of a problem, how do we know this person wasn’t one of those, everyone pads their CV to make it look good but the last thing we want is somebody who got the job just because they were disabled, we need someone with real skill and genuine experience not some BBC diversity booster. That’s probably why they got a promotion so quickly.
Manager 2. Agreed, put that CV back on the reject pile, not worth taking the risk when we have plenty of other candidates.
Positive discrimination acts as a stigma that will follow you round for years afterwards, it can render your hard work meaningless because there is always the rumour that you got the job ‘Just Because’.
Did you meet such and such, the new MP. Yes, seems nice enough, pity we didn’t get the one we wanted, they would have made an excellent MP, local, long history of community awareness and concern. Oh well, the party needed to get another minority into parliament and it was just our districts bad luck to get picked for the minority only short list. They may turn out to be of some use eventually so we just have to put up with them for now.
It can corrupt and destroy real achievements simply because people ask that one question about every exam passed, every qualification achieved, every recommendation from work. Was it just because they are a ???
It doesn’t matter that you were not someone who benefited from positive discrimination, it doesn’t matter that your achievements were down to work, skill, ability or just being the best for the job. The person in the next office got their job ‘Just Because’, so how do people who don’t know you understand that you didn’t. It doesn’t matter if the discrimination is positive or negative, all discrimination is bad. Mindless box ticking in the short term by discriminating in favour of one group leaves other groups discriminated against and in the long term that comes back to cause problems.
Gender, ethnicity, physical or mental health. To discriminate for or against any of them is wrong. It doesn’t matter if your intentions are good. Someone is helped but others are hurt and when you get into the habit of hurting people for good reasons it becomes easy to hurt them for bad reasons.