Tomorrow’s #DigitalLunch: Does positive discrimination work?

So, tomorrow’s #DigitalLunch asks: Does positive discrimination actually work? There are optimists like Shelley Horan (H/T Dearbhail)…

But there are also some interesting challenges to laws that discriminate in favour of women or particular minorities…

In Northern Ireland we’ve had the (albeit timebound) commitment to 50/50 recruitment policy to ensure a sea change in the make up of the policing service which was historically (if for divergent) reasons predominantly Protestant.

In Texas Abigail Fisher is suing the University of Texas for “blatant racial balancing” on the grounds of discrimination…

…after she said she was denied a college place because African American and Hispanic students were favoured in order to ensure diversity. Fisher’s lawyers accused the University of Texas of “blatant racial balancing”.

For my own part I had the unusual experience of working in a co-operative which retained, over a very long time, the very odd employment practice of letting the applicant rather than the employer decide who got hired.

It made for an interesting experiment. Most relevantly for #DigitalLunch was the fact that much as we strived for it – and legislation allowed us to discriminate in terms of who we advertised for – we rarely if ever achieved a balance of genders.

In my time, we were either completely dominated by men (which I think put women off joining). Or vice versa (when men were similarly dissuaded).

In each ‘era’ (these ‘biased’ conditions would persist for years at a stretch), we failed attract significant numbers of the minority gender.

So, to return to tomorrow’s question: do we need legislation to create diversity in the work place? Or should we looking other factors?

Why, after at least a generation of tight legislation, are women and ethnic minorities so successful in well paid professions like law and medicine and still so rare in the boardrooms and parliamentary chambers of Ireland, the UK and the US?

Is the law helping or hindering? Or is, somehow, both? And how can we discriminate (or mediate) between the up and downsides of those effects?

Join us on Google Plus? Circle me and/or +DigitalLunch, and I’ll give you what help I can. Registration is easy enough.

Or, as ever, you can watch the discussion live on YouTube whilst punting us questions in the live comments over there, here on Slugger or on Twitter (#Discrim) even during broadcast and we’ll do our best to deal with them as they come up…

If you are still not sure what it’s all about, try these rough cut snippets from our first 12 #DigitalLunches (the outtakes are very much part of the general offering ;-).

#DigitalLunch: Conversations you really can get into