What is the Cost of Discrimination?

July 31, 2010

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No, we’re not going to talk about the impact of discrimination on victims.  Nor or we going to talk about the effects of programs intended to level the playing field.

Instead, we’ll take a look from the other side – what is the impact of those doing the discrimination?

When you discriminate in the workplace, you are immediately throwing out qualified candidates.  Sometimes you might even be throwing out the most qualified candidate.  What does this cost you?  Money.

I really can’t grasp to concept of discriminating in the workplace.  I am a team coordinator for my company.  When we bring new people on board, the main focus is to add competent people.  There’s no hidden agenda to add only Caucasians, or men, or tall people.  It’s all about the skills.  And why not?  Competent people make your life easier, regardless of their gender, race, or sexual orientation.

For decades, the professional sports leagues were for whites only.  Then pioneers like baseball’s Branch Rickey realized that there was a large untapped potential.  Rickey signed Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson to break the color barrier, and other teams followed suit.  Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947; the last team to integrate were the Red Sox when they added Pumpsie Green in 1959.

Even after the racial barrier were broken, stereotypes prevailed.  African-American players were not allowed to play the more cerebral positions (quarterback in football and pitcher in baseball) – with the reasoning that the race simply didn’t have the intelligence necessary for those positions.  Some teams were quicker than others to realize that this was hogwash (Bob Gibson?) – and those teams reaped the benefits of being a step ahead of the curve.

As pretty much everyone knows, I am a huge sports fan.  This really helped foster an idea of racial equality (or at least ambivalence) at an early age.  My first introduction to players was often on the radio.  The players were simply a name and a stat line.  I liked the players with the good stats and disliked the bums with the bad stats – race had nothing to do with my decision.

Not even writers have been immune from discrimination.  British novelist Mary Ann Evans wrote under the pen name of George Eliot to make sure that her works were taken seriously.  More recently, a female writer on Men With Pens used the pseudonym James Chartrand for the same reason.

The world of politics in the US has long been dominated by white men.  Inroads have been in recent decades, but minorities and women are still under-represented in the federal government.  This, of course, defies all logic.  We’re not even talking about “haves” and “have nots” in these cases.  We’re often talking about people with impressive academic credentials.  Why would an African-American woman with a law degree from Harvard be less qualified than a Caucasian male with a law degree from Yale?  (Unless, of course, you’re of the opinion that Harvard is vastly superior to Yale).  Certainly, they have are more alike than different.

Is there still room for a glass ceiling in the 21st century?  Certainly.  But it should be used appropriately – to keep the incompetent from rising to positions of power.

One Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Martin Kelly
    Aug 02, 2010 @ 17:03:25

    Kosmo, I agree 100%. Always pick the best person for the job. You want the strongst person for jobs that require heavy lifting, the smartest to be a doctor, etc. I have always had trouble understanding both forms of discriminations – pure discrimination and quotas. To me, it all starts with education. If we can get every child the highest quality education (mental and physical) possible, we will find the best posible people for every human activity. I have a very positive attitude about people in general, if someone does well, we all benfit.


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