Positive Action

The government has decided we need positive action to end the under-representation of people in random jobs. There are some obviously stupid parts, like the section where they say Primary schools could use this law to hire more male teachers, cunningly ignoring the fact it’s not discrimination that causes female teachers to dominate, but a complete lack of  male applicants. However one section did jump out at me;

“British women don’t lack experience, they don’t lack ambition and they don’t lack skills.”

With all due warnings about personal anecdotes that is just not true in engineering, certainly at my work they generally do lack experience and skills as they tend to bugger off and have a sprog for extended periods. A lovely choice and fine example of women having it all I’m sure, however it does have downsides, mainly that the women in question aren’t working or learning at the time so will lack experience and skills that their male counterparts pick up while still working.

OK I’m slightly bitter, one of our tunnellers had a couple of sprogs then announced they wanted to work from the Cardiff office. We don’t have any other tunnellers in Cardiff, hell people don’t build that many tunnels in Wales in general as there is nothing that expensive in Wales (you only build a tunnel if you can’t flatten the land above) and in fact the entire UK tunnel department is based in one office in London, and the firm wants to keep it that way. If I were to ask to move to a random office as it would be more personally convenient they’d laugh me out of the room. When she asked personnel ‘advised’ the boss to let her do it as they were worried she ‘d sue if the firm didn’t bend over backwards; new mothers do well at employment tribunals, especially when they work in a 95%+ male environment, strangely white straight men do less well under those circumstances.

On a similar vein whenever we’re doing site work one of our best metal specialists will generally not arrive before 10am and starts asking to leave at 3pm, because of her two kids. We put up with it because she is quite outstanding technically, but she is only used as an absolute last resort because of the problems of getting a decent days work out of her. As for getting a night shift done, forget it, which pretty much rules her out of any London Underground work and a good chunk of the railway work. Is this discrimination from the project managers? Certainly they are not picking her for jobs because she is a woman with kids, but then because she is a woman with kids she will not do as a good a job as a single bloke who’s happy to do nights.

So here is today’s controversial conclusion; yes there is a problem with discrimination in tunnelling, but it is fully deserved and this law wont do a damned thing about it.


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