By Bernie Bell
It was probably in the mid-1980’s. I was a member of the Labour Party. I resigned when they became The New Tory Party – but that’s another matter.
I was a member, and went along to meetings of the local group. One of the women there, wanted to set up a ‘Women’s Section’ within the group. She presumed that I would be very much for it, as she knew me and knew how I am – generally bolshie – for equality etc. etc. She was kind-of stunned when I said no – I thought it was not a good idea. And this is why:-
It may be naive of me, to see it this way, but………..it should be about not seeing what gender or colour or anything else someone is, but about their ability to do whatever the job is, that they are proposing to do.
There was a bit of a trend at the time, for Black Groups and Women’s groups. I didn’t go along with it. To me, it meant more division, less unity. It was another way of looking at folk for what they were, physically, rather than their ability, or otherwise. I see it possibly meaning that folk who actually weren’t fit for the work, getting into a position, because of some outward characteristic which fitted with quotas.
And, from what I could see, when this kind of approach was put into practice, it still meant that pushy people got there, instead of quiet folk. Still not looking at ability, but going by what’s presented.
I still believe this to be the case.
This isn’t a personal gripe of mine, as I am not a quiet person who gets over-looked – far from it, and have used that, in the past, to support the quiet ones, when needed.
I would hope that, some day, people will actually be chosen by ability only. I do realize that this isn’t the case, now, and that much work still needs to be done on this. Certain types of people are still chosen before others, because of pre-conceptions and bias. I even include in this – charm – a lot of charming people get into positions of power that they maybe shouldn’t be in, simply because they can charm. I distrust charm.
I risk rambling here. I will appear naive, to some. I don’t think I am, I am just hopeful.
I’m hopeful that, one day, people will be chosen for office, for jobs, for anything you care to mention, on their abilities, not external appearance, or extraneous trappings.
And yes, I remember that Martin Luther King began his speech with ‘I have a dream……….” and, for a time, America got a very good President who happened to be brown.
So, the wheel turns. And, one day, in Britain (whatever that might consist of when this comes about) folk will simply be chosen on ability and nothing else.
I sent this to the Gender Representation Bill consultancy which took place last year– I don’t think it will make a ha’pporth of difference, as that particular wheel still has a long way to roll, relentlessly on.
Much box-ticking will happen, and a report will be done. And filed away.
Oh, and, of course, there will be meetings, lots of meetings, and meetings about the meetings.
Here’s another tale –
Years ago, I worked in the Civil Service. The office where I worked, was told that it had to fill a quota for ‘disabled’ people working there. Seriously, they were told that they had to do so. It was a small office, so the quota was only one. There were no ‘disabled’ people working there, and no jobs needed to be created, which this disabled person might, possibly do. So, my boss put me down as the disabled quota, because I have asthma. I wasn’t too pleased, as I didn’t see myself as being ‘disabled’ – I saw myself as having asthma, and dealing with it. Admittedly, there were jobs which I’d had interviews for, only to find that I couldn’t possibly attempt to do them, because of the asthma, but I just thought “Tough – that’s just how it is”, and looked for work which I could do.
I don’t know what they did, when I left – did they go out trawling for someone with eczema? Though, eczema isn’t as easy for co-workers to deal with, as asthma. Before someone pounces on me for that – I’m being sarcastic or satirical, or whatever it is.
The point I’m trying to make is…………..Whatever the appearance of a person, or their perceived ‘abilities’ or ‘disabilities’ might be, what should, when it comes down to it, matter, is if they will be suitable, or ‘able’ to do the job.
And, all too often, it depends on the pre-conceptions and ‘comfort-zone’ of the folk doing the interview.
What’s needed, is a big shift in how we view each other, and ourselves, and our application of this, when choosing who should fill posts in the workplace. Not enforced placing based on fixed quotas – but rather, placing because the person is the right person to be there.
Simple enough – wouldn’t you think?