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Positive Discrimination

Source: Public Domain Pictures

by Mary Israel

Industries in the UK have started to impose schemes to encourage marginalised groups, most commonly women in science and BAME people in media and communications, to apply for jobs lacking a particular demographic. Whilst this can be perceived as good progress, is positive discrimination really the right way to go? 

With certain opportunities only being open to BAME people, media spaces are progressively getting more populated with workers with diverse backgrounds. Charities such as the Taylor Bennett Foundation are helping to encourage BAME graduates to pursue a career in the media and communications field. Without this programme, many people from BAME backgrounds would not have had a chance to obtain careers in the highly competitive and arguably nepotistic industry. 

“By having people from different backgrounds collaborate in a team, there is a better chance of comprehensive understanding”

To have a diverse workforce is to have a diversity of skills. It is important for companies to take a step back and have a clear focus as to why having a diverse environment will be beneficial for the organisation. Organisations will benefit from having a diverse set of workers in order to be progressive and ensure a constant flow of ideas, maintain innovation and drive up morale. By having people from different backgrounds collaborate in a team, there is a better chance of comprehensive understanding and, in turn, reaching the full potential of a simple idea. 

Furthermore, by encouraging diversity and employing more women in science, we can further the advancement of technology and scientific research. Historically, the contributions of women in science have been overlooked. There is a massive gap to fill in terms of allowing female excellence to resonate into STEM fields and in gaining recognition for women’s contribution. Many schemes have opened up for women who wish to pursue a career in science and technology, most notably UN Women’s initiative to promote gender diversity in the workplace in order to help businesses to perform better. 

On the other hand, couldn’t we argue that seeking out specific people with certain characteristics is actually a form of discrimination in itself? Positive discrimination, under the Equality Act 2010, is actually considered unlawful. Employers who recruit people solely because of their certain ‘protected characteristics’, which includes age, ethnicity, disability amongst many others, are practicing unlawful conduct under the legislation. 

Diversity, inclusion, and belonging –  are the three principles that workspaces aim to follow. But are BAME and women in science schemes really effective in combatting the imbalanced distribution of jobs in certain industries? Some say no. There is still evidence that ethnic minorities are still under-represented in senior-level positions. Without BAME representation in high ranking positions, BAME graduates will not be enthused to apply for a career in an environment where they may not be able to assimilate into swiftly. Although internships and placements seeking BAME graduates are multiplying, the awareness for these opportunities remains low. To counteract this, science and media industries need to start from the root. By encouraging young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue creative careers, companies who want to abide by the three principles will have a better chance of fulfilling them. 

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