Andrew Ducker (andrewducker) wrote,
Andrew Ducker
andrewducker

Some thoughts on quotas

In f-locked discussion elsewhere I was talking about quotas, people's aversion to them, and what can be done about them.

I feel iffy about quotas. Not because they'd be acting against me[1], but because they always feel like a terribly blunt tool to attack a problem with, and they seem to inflame people a lot whenever they come up[2], and cause lots of short-term anger. Some people will feel that blunt instruments are necessary, some will feel very strongly that reverse-discrimination is still discrimination (and thus wrong), and the discussions are frequently made of more heat than light, what with the demonising of people with opposing opinions.

Personally, what I'd like is for people to _think_ more and consider the situation[3], try to make it better, and be clear (when they haven't made it better) what they tried to do. Which is why I wouldn't be in favour of saying simply "50% of all X must be Y.", but I would be in favour of requiring, when certain levels weren't met, that people had to explain _why_.

So, taking the recent example of conventions[4], you could set a minimum level at 40% of either gender (thus allowing for a 3:2 split on a five member panel), and while any given panel could have any actual split, any one which breached the 40% would have to log an explanation saying something like "All five of the world-renowned experts in this field are female." or "We asked our friends, we put up posters, we sent out mass emails, but only one woman was willing to be on this panel."

This would then mean that people at least _looked_ at the figures, had a think about it, and then probably put in some effort because they wanted to avoid the paperwork. Because, frankly, avoiding paperwork is a prime motivator to most people, and enough to spur them into doing the right thing.



[1]They would, because I'm middle-class, earn above average, am not part of a minority that's terribly visible or picked on where I live, etc. But I'd be happy if they did so, because frankly I got a lot of help along the way.
[2]Many people do not like the idea of reverse discrimination. Some people do not like the idea that (for instance) a Chinese person would be placed in the situation where people could question where they actually got the job on merit, or whether it was just to fill a quota.
[3]This bit applies to negative situations in general, not just ones that quotas are a plausible solution for.
[4]Paul Cornell announced that he would not appear on any panel that wasn't 50% female. Other people are now questioning why any panel shouldn't be representative of the general population.




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