Janet Albrechtsen doesn’t understand privilege or discrimination and if you helped to spread her nonsense you should feel bad

This week on Planet Janet (thanks Guy Rundle) she’s arguing that men should be able to bring about discrimination lawsuits because of quotas for women in corporate Australia. Never mind that bringing sex discrimination lawsuits is expensive, won’t get you much money and has a low probability of success. Some quotes:

From 2000 to 2009, the Federal Magistrate’s Court heard 46 substantive sex discrimination matters — an average of five cases each year. Of these, 12 were unsuccessful while 34 were successful. Almost all of the successful sex discrimination claims related to employment and more than half (20) involved sexual harassment claims. The damages awards have ranged from $750 to $100 000, but in only four cases was more than $25 000 compensation awarded, with the highest award being $100 000 awarded to a female civilian employee at a naval base who was sexually harassed, including rape.

And further…

When sexual harassment cases are taken out of these data, the FMC upheld 14 claims over 10 years of discrimination based on sex, pregnancy or family responsibilities. Only two of these cases involved a successful indirect discrimination claim.

So if you’re a skilled male employee who has been overlooked for a promotion because of quotas it seems that going to court over quotas will be unlikely to net you more money than, say looking for another job.

Secondly, the whole “quotas are unfair” argument has been debunked by others. The main thing to remember is that if you want to argue that businesses are run as a meritocracy were it not for meddling SJWs and their quotas, this is the status quo you are signing up for:

Women make up 20 per cent of ASX200 board directors, 5 per cent of the CEOs of said boards, about 30 per cent of top-level federal public servants and just 10 per cent of the federal cabinet.

Do you really think that women want to be CEOs at a rate that is 20x lower than men? Or, in the words of Planet Janet:

In other words, men and women are not competing in equal numbers because more women than men choose to spend time caring for their own children. Rather than some misogynistic conspiracy to keep women at home, it’s women deciding to fully embrace the tender, warm, frustrating yet privileged business of being a hands-on mother.

There are a few problems with this “women just aren’t interested in it” theory:

  1. This argument has been made and debunked for almost everything that women historically weren’t allowed to do “women wouldn’t want to join the army”, “women wouldn’t want to vote”…. it always turns out to be wrong and I don’t see why this would be any different.
  2. There could be lots of confounding factors, for instance, maybe women choose to stay home rather than their partners because their partners earn more… because they are men.
  3. Saying that women are more caring or better mothers is just as sexist as saying that they are not as enthusiastic about moving up the corporate ladder and earning the dollaz.

Lastly, I think that any straight white male who repeats ideas like the ones Janet presents is failing to comprehend his own privilege. Repeating these ideas is harmful to the debate and takes time away from discussing issues that might actually help women in the workforce and companies access a wider pool of talent. It’s true that many men work very hard for their education and to advance their careers. But you need to recognize that there are many people who work just as hard or harder and they don’t get the MegaCorp business cards and salaries to go with it. I personally know several women who are incredibly smart and educated but don’t have great incomes to match. The reasons for this vary but include:

  1. Going into a low paying field because they feel the need to ‘make a difference’, a motivation that is much lower amongst the men I know.
  2. Leaving a job/field due in part to straight up sexual harassment.

So, to summarize. Janet Albrechtsen doesn’t understand that quotas are in place because of existing privilege, bias and discrimination. She also doesn’t understand how hard it would be to bring an actual sex discrimination suit based on quotas.

Postscript — Never let Janet run a tech company

The following excerpt shows that she has no idea what makes for a good tech company or good engineers.

Penn got into a pickle when he said that Telstra wanted to shift from “not just technical competence” to “the complete transformation in the customer experience.”
That shift away from technical skills may disappoint thousands of Telstra customers who can’t get a decent technical service right now, let alone those left high and dry in the past.
When it takes four long years for Telstra to set up a working Wi-Fi system in your house, you might think Australia’s largest telco company should focus on technical skills over finding women who could transform the customer experience. Rather than sending in women to mop up a mess by arranging polite voices at a call centre in Asia to deal with aggravated customers, Telstra would be better off employing more people, men and women, to improve core technical competencies.

A “decent technical service” is the customer experience. Frankly, saying here that hiring a bunch of women would lead to more polite voices at call centers is kind of offensive to all the women engineers out there. What focusing on the customer experience actually means is figuring out what’s important to customers and delivering it. So, that would mean making the WiFi system easy to setup (or whatever). It is actually a real challenge to get engineers to work on what’s important to customers rather than whatever interesting boondoggle they want to work on at the time. Also, for what it’s worth, the whole customer focus/obsession thing is straight out of the Amazon playbook and is in pretty much all public communication for the company including engineering job descriptions. Having seen the inside of the hiring, performance management and promotion processes “customer obsession” is baked into everything Amazon does… I would suggest that Amazon knows more about hiring and managing engineers than any Australian journalist.

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