That’s the gist of a hard-hitting article written by Karen Selick, a lawyer from Belleville, Ontario. She is referring to the new affirmative-action policies in favour of women employees introduced by the Ottawa Citizen, the Montreal Gazette, and the Southam Newspaper Group. These newspapers have decided that the salaries and advancement of senior managers will depend, to some extent, on their success in recruiting and promoting women.
This kind of action is now widely hailed in progressive circles as a way to overcome the discrimination and victimization of the past. Fortunately, not all women accept the logic of this argument. Some think that the only thing that women have the right to demand is that they be treated on an equal basis, that is, on the basis of merit alongside of men.
Selick suggests that a simple statistical measurement of the relative positions and incomes of men and women does not necessarily prove discrimination, but differences may very well be due to the different priorities of men and women. She writes that the slow progress by women in newspapers (36 per cent of Southam employees are female, but only five per cent hold management positions) may be due to the fact that not many women in the industry desire or actively work toward promotion. She says that we do not know how many women have refused promotions because they were unwilling to relocate or did not want to assume the extra stress of a more senior position because it would interfere with the time devoted to their families.
“Don’t Patronize Us”
Selick finds the Southam taskforce’s recommendations on women’s opportunities insulting. She is tired of being categorized as the downtrodden, together with the disabled and visible minorities. She does not demand charity from anyone and resents the efforts to force white males to give advantages to women that they, as individuals, have not earned. She concludes:
It used to be that women who became successful in male fields earned the respect of all who witnessed their achievement. As the trend toward quotas and other affirmative-action programs continues, I have detected a change in attitude: now people assume that women in prominent positions are there as a result of tokenism. Instead of respect, we get derision.
And from men who have been passed over for jobs or promotions because of their sex, we get resentment. This is not making the world a better place to live in.
Men, if you still have any goodwill at all toward women, don’t patronize us. Deal with us on the basis of our merits. Don’t let the genuine achievements of some be devalued by the counterfeit currency that affirmative-action groups are trying to force into circulation. (Karen Selick, “Stop the Lunacy,” The Globe and Mail, June 27,1990, p.A15)