Discrimination: the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.
Discrimination: the ability to discern what is of high quality; good judgment or taste.
Sure you discriminate; so do I for that matter. You and I, we have our preferences and they are revealed when we pick up one brand over another in a shopping trip. Why sometimes we’ll pay more for something we see as having higher value. We might stand in a longer line than another if we feel we’ll have a better experience dealing with the ticket taker, the Airport Security or the Cashier at the check out. Why, to be a discriminating buyer is a compliment isn’t it! You don’t just, ‘settle’ for things, you have impeccable taste and exercise discriminating judgement. So, can we both agree that you and I discriminate? I think so.
Ah, but then there’s our first definition of discrimination up there at the top of this piece. This is the definition of discrimination we are likely to want to distance ourselves from; well most of us. We could argue that someone like the current President of the United States is discriminating when he puts forward an, “America first” agenda, or proposes legislation that bans people of certain countries from flying, and of course there is his plan to build a wall separating his country from Mexico. Discrimination? Absolutely! Yet there he is at the very pinnacle of power and influence. So, holding such a polarizing view can get you to the top and, apparently, allow you to stay there too; at least for a while.
Like you, I hope, I’m not in favour of discriminating on the basis of race, age or sex. This being said, there are situations where I do agree one should. Take for example the staff who work in a safe house for women who have been abused. I could be the most empathetic, kind and supportive Crisis Counselling Support Worker out there, but for some woman who has just fled an abusive relationship, all she might see upon entering that safe domain is a male in a position of authority and that could trigger fear, alarm and prevent her from even wanting to be accepted in. No, I agree there are jobs that should still discriminate based on gender.
Now, some jobs that, in the past, were exclusively reserved for one gender or the other have, or are in the process of, opening up. Nursing used to be a female-only dominated profession. Now, of course, we see male nurses and I applaud the men who have committed to the profession and aren’t necessarily angling to become Doctors, who have reached their goal of working in the medical health field and perform their work with skill and dedication.
Soldiers used to be exclusively male; women were once limited to working in factories to support the war effort, or as I say in the health care field, treating the wounded and dying. Now we’ve reached the point in many countries where women have the option to serve. If that is their wish, and presuming they can match and pass the standards that have been set to keep soldiers trained and ready for battle, than why not?
But it’s this other blatant discrimination that gets most people upset and rebelling against. You know, the employer who denies employment because their skin is of a certain colour, the applicant is too young or old, has no experience at all or is overly qualified. Maybe it’s a person’s sexual preferences, their lifestyle, religious denomination or faith, choice of clothing, height, weight, health etc. There are any number of things we find and hear about where someone is certain they’ve been discriminated against.
We hear hateful discrimination in comments like, “Why don’t you go back where you came from!” and not only is it hateful, it’s hurtful. Ironically, the victim of such comments isn’t even from a foreign country as the person talking suspects.
Collectively, I believe we have to do better. Isn’t it all about inclusion and not exclusion? Isn’t what we’re striving for really is to be better at choosing to hire people based on their skills and experience? And as for experience, how do people acquire that valuable experience unless somewhere along the line someone gives them that first break; that first opportunity to gain the experience we’ve come to value?
Yet, I know, as I suspect you do, that there are employers who favour local experience over experience gained elsewhere. While that can mean a Canadian employer prefers Canadian experience, on a micro level, it can mean an employer prefers to hire someone with work experience in the same city, town or who went the to same school they did. We often hear that people like to hire people who look like them, talk like them, act like them.
Be careful though I say: there is a risk that some excellent people with different backgrounds and different experiences could bring an infusion of energy, better ideas, more innovative methods and practices. If you or I discriminate against these same people, then the opportunities are lost.
So think before we speak, consider before we reject, pause before we act, and make sure we treat others as we’d wish to be treated ourselves.
That’s how I see it anyhow.
Written By Kelly Mitchell
Will You Admit You’re Biased, Have Preferences And Discriminate? was originally published @ Employment Counselling with Kelly Mitchell and has been syndicated with permission.