Thursday, December 16, 2010

Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action: an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups and women.
Sounds great, right? Bigot swine aside, who wouldn't want qualified women and blacks, asians, latinos, etc. in the workforce? The problem with affirmative action and the reason I think it is an unfair practice is that it usually overlooks how qualified a person is in favor of their skin color or sex. That is why in Britain they call it "positive discrimination". LOL, this term always makes me laugh, kind of like "reverse racism".

"Positive" discrimination? What does that man? Well, basically, it means that if you have worked your ass off to be at the top of your class and have taken internships to develop skills you think will make you more qualified than the next guy, you'd better hope the next guy is not black or a woman, or you can bet that if the company practices "positive discrimination" AKA "affirmative action", you're screwed!

P.C. Disclaimer: I hate the term African-American. I use "black". If you are offended, you are probably white so I'll ask you, how many black americans do you know that were born in, or have ever lived in Africa? What makes them African-American, then? Ancestry, you say? Well then, shouldn't we all be called African-Americans? Anyway...

Luckily for me, I happen to be a woman of hispanic descent (even though you can't really tell by my skin color) in a field and industry that is overwhelmingly dominated by white males. Chuh-Ching!! I'd love to say that I have such amazing foresight that I predicted this unfair advantage but, the fact is, I love Physics - and Mechanical Engineering was just the most closely related field in which I felt I could actually make some money.

So, I graduated from college with a 3.4 GPA and a 6 month old daughter, and still managed to juggle an internship I felt would make me more qualified than the next guy. And, probably because I was not the next guy, I landed a job with a large corporation that will remain nameless.

On my first day, I realized that I was the ONLY woman in my office building, and in the one next to that, and in the entire department, made up of at least 100 employees. Then, I realized that I was the only hispanic salaried person in the entire factory (1000+ employees)! Hmmmm... I began to wonder if there was not an unlucky white guy with a 4.0 GPA and more experience who did not get the job because he wouldn't have satisfied some affirmative action plan devised to save the company's reputation from being tarnished by insinuations of sexism or racism.

If I am so against affirmative action why, you may wonder, do I not resign on moral grounds?
Why do I stick around and reap it's benefits? Simply stated, I am no fool! Affirmative action did not only (in all likelihood) help me get this job but it also makes it harder for them to fire me and, as a consequence, I get paid a decent salary for working a desk job with more than my share of leniancies. And now that I am visibly pregnant this has only gotten better (worse), to the point that my male co-workers have started to notice and leak their resentment. And, while I never expected to get any special treatment and concede that it is extremely unfair and just plain disgusting, you won't hear me complaining to HR!

Another reason, probably the most important reason, I'm sticking around is that I believe that I am qualified and that I am great at my job. Like many in my graduating class (and perhaps even more so), I worked my ass off! I have memories that will never leave me of trying to breastfeed a screaming newborn while studying for a final at 4 a.m. on two hours of sleep! And, even though I will never know if I am here because my company needed to fill some diversity gap, because they felt I was the most qualified person in their pool, or a little bit of both, knowing that about myself is good enough for me!

Thursday, December 2, 2010