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Do we want women to work at all?

Many postings in "Worst interviewer ever" surprices me, so I must ask:

    Do we really want women to work?

For the argument's sake, let's say a woman costs more than a man because of pregnancy. I say that's the cost of emplying both men and women. Excluding women will not lower the costs of running a family, so men's wages will increase over time, which leads to higher costs for employers. I don't think employsers will save a dime.

Besides, I think it's proved that an equal distribution between men and women produces the best working environment.

I think it's nice with female coworkers.

Thomas Eyde
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

From my experience.... (your mileage may vary)

Having women on the team in general produces a better team, because the average woman has different personal strengths to the average man. (I did a Belbin test recently with a group of people, and found the women had higher marks for "creative thinking" overall).

In a team of developers, 1/5 are women. In a team of testers, 1/2 are women.

I know more than a few women who, in their 20s said they never ever wanted children, ever, but by the time they hit their 30s they've got a family. Come to think of it, that goes for men as well.

If your star tester decides to become a full time mum or dad, and you treat them well, they're likely to treat you well in return in helping out in the hiring of a good replacement.

Better than being unemployed...
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

I do not know how it is in the USA, but in Europe parental leaves can be granted to men too. In fact, it's becoming increasingly common. Most parental leaves here are heavily subsidised by the government and pose very little load on the employer (if any).

The greatest software developer I have ever had the chance of working with was a woman. Having said that, I believe that a hiring decision made on the sole basis of how likely is a potential employee to have a child is a discriminatory practice and IMHO it should be ilegal.

People often forgets that having a child oftenly involves two people, one of which is likely to be a male, which is as responsible for the well-being of the toddler as the female. It is true that women are the ones that have to bear a life in their tummies, are exposed to hormonal "overdrives" and have to go through the excrucianting pain of giving birth. I think that's enough suffering without adding "the impossibility of finding a job" to it.

In a more subjective fashion, I think that having women in software development teams brings a special kind balance that is hard to achieve otherwise. All-male development teams easily turn into "pissing contests" when there's a little (healthy) internal competition. Women have the supernatural gift of rationalizing a team of developers. Male developers oftenly behave more rationaly in the presence of women developers (unless they are morons, that is).

Professional decissions should be made on professional grounds alone. Having a child is a natural thing for anybody, be it a man or woman, placing the burden of parenthood in women alone is VERY unfair. Any modern western society _should_ have this sorted out by now.

Beka Pantone
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Beka: "All-male development teams easily turn into "pissing contests" when there's a little (healthy) internal competition. Women have the supernatural gift of rationalizing a team of developers."

This is sexist tripe, equivalent to "men are ego-laden morons and women are empathetic miracle-workers." Save it for your sensitivity training. It ain't true.

Troy King
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

I think the argument in favor of working women is that a larger applicant pool will allow employers to hire more superstars (men and women). I think most employers would rather hire a superstar woman (who might take maternity leave later) than a mediocre man.

runtime
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

First of all, who is this "we" that we're talking about?  Why should "we" be able to tell "them" how to run their businesses.  If a business owner decides he doesn't want to hire X, then that's his prerogative.  He's going to assume the associated risks and costs, not you.  If he chooses to select an inferior candidate because of a prejudice or bias, then his business will suffer for it.  If he chooses to increase his own costs by artificially restricting his supply of labor, then he'll pay for it.  Plus, he'll expose himself as a bigot because his bias will be explicit.  Enough of these kinds of irrational decisions will place him at a real disadvantage relative to his competitors.  If he's willing to pay that cost to enjoy his bias, then so be it.

There are natural mechanisms already in place to curtail this kind of behavior, it doesn't need legislation, regulation, or any other sort of interference.  The least that you do when you disrupt this natural feedback is destabilize the system.  Think about it.

tired of tedium
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Yeah tedium,

That's why segregation laws just sort of went away on their own without requiring anybody to make it go away. They just didn't make sense.

uh huh
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

The biggest argument in favor of hiring women (regardless of how often they may get pregnant or take maternity leave) is that if you don't give us a fair shot at jobs we eventually catch on to it. Then we stop buying your products and services and suggest that the men in our lives follow suit. It's probably much cheaper not to discriminate in the first place.

Beth Linker
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

A business owner might say, "I run a company in small-town Alabama.  The people my company deals with day-to-day are rednecks, and they don't like blacks.  So, even though I don't have a problem with blacks, I am damned sure not going to hire any blacks, because it will cost my company business."

Assuming that the business owner is correct that his customers don't like black employees, should his decision not to hire blacks be legal?

Of course not.  He must hire blacks.

This is the fundamental principle of equal rights.  You can't discriminate against people using a "suspect classification" (like race or gender), even if your business would do BETTER, financially, if you did discriminate.

If you are arguing against equal rights, then please just say so.  But you will also need to explain why financial profit is more important to you than making careers open to all people who possess the relevant skills, regardless of race or gender.

Do you consider money to be more important than human dignity?

programmer
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

We all benefit from women having children and so we should ensure they don't suffer because of it.


Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Of course I believe in equal rights.  I'm thinking, though, that you may have a somewhat more expansive definition of what a right is.  What "right," exactly, are you talking about?

Also, I don't argue that profit supercedes any other goal.  Profit is, however, something most businesses pay very close attention to.  Anything that retards the ability of the business to achieve its profit goals will obviously be viewed as a negative consequence of the decisions that cause the situation to come about.  If you think about the system you just mentioned, you can easily see several sources of pressure that would tend to drive down the profit potential of a discriminating business relative to a non-discriminating one, alienating a large potential market not least among them.  In other words, the system already has in place correction mechanisms that tend to counteract irrational kinds of discrimination.

tired of tedium
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Most women don't want to be programmers anyway.

PC
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

replay to "programmer":

You might want to ask a lawer, it's possible that the "All Redneck Office" manager is allowd to operate such.

Imagine someone looking for a "Female Voice" for something like acting, or if you need a Jamaican Accent, isn't that legal?

Bob
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

"In other words, the system already has in place correction mechanisms that tend to counteract irrational kinds of discrimination."

You may think this is true because you think it should be true.
But history does not agree with you. Nor does human nature.

People tend to react on immediate results. The effects that you think might correct irrational discrimination are to indirect and to implicit to go noticed. Even when they cause one to fail, one is likely to look for and find other causes.

But even when your right, it will only correct this one individual business' thinking as long as the same people run it. And for as long as it lasts.

Practical Geezer
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Jeeze, this is one long troll.

In civilised countries it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender or 'race', it will become illegal to discriminate on the basis of age.

This makes questions about women becoming pregnant as current and up to date as questions about buggy whips, men in red flags and 'my country right or wrong'.

If you don't live in a civilised country then I'm sorry for you.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Don't hold your breath. In those countries were it is already illegal to discriminate on age, still no programmers over 40 find a job, even in good times. Besides, even the state there is eager to find "exceptions" for itself as in e.g. research grants.

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Simon,

as I understand, the question is not about legality but enforcability.  If the law exists but is hard to enforce, there will be a defacto discrimination.  Am I wrong in thinking this?

I believe the thoughtful company should have procedures in place to mitigate the impact of pregnancies, and of hard-to-replace people leaving.  Included should be a loyalty (yes, I'm going into fantasyland) that everyone feels they can work with the others to have a successful pregnancy without being irresponsible to those who will share the burden.

But I do know that very few companies can plan or care enough.

Tj
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Natural checks and balances? Yeah, right, because this never scenario never happens:

1) Company A reduces wage bill by discriminating against 'expensive' employees - the ones who want children, short hours, more pay, time off etc.

2) Company A sells product cheaper, gains market share.

3) Company B gets worried, sees what Company A is doing and follows suit.

4) Company C tries to remain ethical, but can't compete, and goes out of business.

5) Discrimination, poor wages and poor working conditions become the norm.

6) Business leaders wash their hands of any responsibility, blaming market forces.

7) People complain and ask for laws to stop this kind of thing happening, but business leaders tell them to shut up and stop interfering in the market.

8) Goto 1

Neil E
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Gender discrimination is entirely enforeceable in terms of recruitment, pay levels still have some way to go.

If someone asks in an interview whether you are married, have children or any other such question regardless of your gender then its more than just a breach of the law, its an indication that they are less than effective employers.

Simon Lucy
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

[no programmers over 40 find a job]

I was over 45 when I started programming, and have found 3 jobs. It can't be that unusual for a programmer over 40 to find a job if I have found 3 (I quit the first 2).

PC
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

This is a very relevant topic to me at the moment because I am wrestling with the whole "want job but want small child also" issue.

I am a successful female developer, age 26, and I am working hard to build myself a career. I intend to work into my sixties, because I love my chosen field and I want to keep learning more and doing better.

Lately I have read that having children in your thirties is not as easy as most young women believe - your fertility rate declines rapidly after 30.

So if I wait too long, I may never be able to have children, but if I have them now, I am screwing my career, because I will probably either lose say 2 years while I try to do the best job I can of raising a child, or I will lose a couple of months but probably screw up my child.

The company I work for currently has a very understanding policy about mothers. But I am concerned that chosing to be a mom, or even just having the ability to maybe someday have kids, makes me a less desirable employee.

While it's no-one's fault, and I certainly wouldn't want to be a guy *grin*, it makes me sad to think that I have all this agonizing to do, while my (very wonderful) boyfriend can have both a great career and a slew of kids if he likes, and no agonizing... *sigh*...

Astarte
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

"while my (very wonderful) boyfriend can have both a great career and a slew of kids if he likes, and no agonizing"

But for that he will have to limit his mate choices to the traditional no-carreer-stay-at-home-mum-of-you-go-dear kind of spouse. Some men can, some men can't, some men want to, some men don't.

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

"You may think this is true because you think it should be true. But history does not agree with you. Nor does human nature."

History does not agree with me mostly because of other interference with natural market mechanisms.  It's true that harsh discriminatory practices existed for a long time in certain parts of the US. They still do, in lots of cases. If you carefully examine things, though, you can see that laws and regulations (i.e. interference) put into effect acted to defeat the corrective mechanisms of the market.  For instance, opening a legitimate business required a so-called "business license."  In other words, if you want to open and run a business you need permission from someone.  Unfortunately, that someone also happens to be the very people that are discriminating against you.  If you think about all the regulations and laws that apply to the simple act of opening and operating a business, you can see that there are hundreds of places where wanna-be discriminators can defeat corrective pressures from the market.

What you see in the real world is that one set of interfering measures are put into effect and inevitably, problems result.  The solution?  Instead of eliminating the first set of measures, put new measures into effect that supposedly counteract the damaging effects of the first set.  When these also cause problems, add more.  Is it any wonder that finding a real example to work from is like finding a needle in a haystack when you have many layers of complex interference?

As to human nature, it seems to me that if a business was actively discriminating against me or against people similar to me, human nature would cause me to actively avoid purchasing their products or services. You don't agree?

tired of tedium
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Astarte:

<quote>
While it's no-one's fault, and I certainly wouldn't want to be a guy *grin*, it makes me sad to think that I have all this agonizing to do, while my (very wonderful) boyfriend can have both a great career and a slew of kids if he likes, and no agonizing... *sigh*...
</quote>

Your boyfriend can have a slew of kids if he likes and no agonizing? Did you actually mean to say that he's an asshole who couldn't care less about how much time he spends with his own children, or did you mean something else?

The dillemma of how best to maximize ones utility is precisely the same for both sexes. The only possible difference is if women simply care more about being with and taking care of their children than men do - which may be statistically a general rule, but a statistical generality cannot be converted into an argument as to the position of an individual given person.

The fact is, certain things are mutually exclusive. "Being with X" (children, significant other, etc) and "doing Y" (working, taking care of children, etc) typically cannot be performed at the same time. Given that time is a scarce resource, the fundamental problem of how best to personally allocate scarce resources to maximize ones utility will always exist for everyone, no matter their sex or class.

A similar trade-off between mutually exclusive activities is Production vs Consumption - make money, or spend it?

There is no apparently greater burden on women than men in this particular department. At most, women have greater demands on their time and men have greater demands on their money (material resources). Pretty much as it has always been for homo sapiens, really.

Brian Hall
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

"As to human nature, it seems to me that if a business was actively discriminating against me or against people similar to me, human nature would cause me to actively avoid purchasing their products or services. You don't agree?"

You would, maybe, if satisfactory alternatives were available.
However, that does not constitute a corrective mechanism.
First, because that's just your response and there is no law of nature, or business, that prescribes that others will do so too.
Second, because the next day things might have changed. You may need their product after all.
But most importantly, you may know why you are not buying, but there is no reason to assume that the business will understand, or even know about, the reason why they sold one less product.

A business, or a human is not a closed loop feedback system with nice and clear correlations between cause and effect. So don't expect them to behave the same.

So about this human nature, it merely says that people are most likely to do what benifits them most, not you as a customer, or even us as a society. At least in our day to day business.
And if being able to make a quick buck by short-changing some anonymous individual that you are not likely to ever meet (again), that is exactly what many people will do.

Practical Geezer
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Haha, I think this topic is moot. Women will work because they want to, it's got nothing to do with whether you think it's a good idea or not. If you think you can convince them otherwise you are out of your mind.

Ian Stallings
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

'tired of tedium' - you are the sole voice of reason in this thread.

Neil, you started off well, and then got  a bit lost.

3. Company B ..... and follows suit

4. Company C tries to remain ethical, but can't compete, and goes out of business.

This should have been, Company C fails to identify the market trends and goes out of business.

Here is how this scenario could pan out.

5. Company D markets it's products as "made with mother's love (tm)"  and sells them at a premium on the market capturing clientele like Neil E.

6. Customer E used to but from Company B. When A dropped their prices, he switched to customer A. This is what prompted Company B to drop its prices.

7. Because Custome E is buying with widgets for less, their profits this year will be higher. They reward their shareholders with higher dividends at the end of the year.

8. Shareholder F has a higher income this year than he did last year. He decides to buy more thingies from Company G.

9. Company G, facing a greater demand for its thingies decides to increase production. They hire more staff,  etc etc etc.

tapiwa
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Segregation Laws just went away? I think people had to fight to get rid of them.  Plus, as far as I can tell there are cities in the United States where a railroad divides white and black.

Logan
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Could anyone else work out what happens after stage 5?

WTF?
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

I was concerned about the people who favor discriminating against women who might have children but then I realized that it's really OK since competant people will avoid such companies and the people favoring such policies it's best if they don't reproduce anyway. So you guys go right ahead.

Charlotte C.
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Wow, looks like things were busy in here today.  The thread had a bunch of child threads, apparently - discrimination everywhere :)

Anyhow, I just wanted to post once more on this before becoming a bystander.  My basic take on the matter is not whether discimination is good or bad, ethical or unethical.  In my book, certain kinds of discrimination (skin color, hair color, length of eyelashes, whatever) is stupid and irrational.  When you succumb to it, you hurt yourself.  Even if only for that much reason, you shouldn't do it.

What bugs me about the thread (and others like it) is more the question whether you (individually or collectively) have the right to tell me how to run my business, what choices I should make, and so on.  In my book that's a no-no, especially when, as I observed earlier, the situation will already act to correct itself if you just stop interfering with it.  I won't go into all the reasoning behind that assertion since I don't want to write a book.  Read Henry Hazlitt, Ludwig Von Mises, Thomas Sowell, W. Edwards Deming, or even Adam Smith.  They are all much smarter than I, and quite convincing if you are willing to listen to what they have to say.  If you don't have time to do the reading, just think about it a bit, making sure to cover second and third order effects.

For me, the deciding factor of the whole thing is that the interference is always brought about forcefully.  Not through persuasion or education or reason, but through force.  Sometimes the force is well hidden and velvet-gloved, but if you track it back to its source, it involves someone showing up at your door with firearms to drag you off to the clink (or worse - sometimes those folks discriminate too). 

OTOH, if you just leave it alone, not only will the situation correct itself (eventually), but you do not rationalize yet one more circumstance under which it is okay to bully your neighbor into seeing things your way.  It is as simple as that.

tired of tedium
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

BTW:  My reference to Deming above is for his work with the stability of complex systems, not his stuff on quality control or management (though they are decent reads too).  Sorry for the oversight.

tired of tedium
Wednesday, February 19, 2003

Tedium,

So you are basically saying that people being hurt now by irrational or discriminative behaviour should not worry, because in a hundred years or so the system will have weeded out this companies behaviour?
Or 10 years maybe? Or would that be more like a millenium, or two?

So what about history? All these people fighting for their rights were just to stupid to realise that if only they let the system go, everything would be alright?

So how did slavery start in the first place? And exploitation of peasants in feudal times? And during the industrial revolution?

Doesn't it strike you that in an ever changing universe, such as ours, there is no such thing as an equilibrium? Let alone one that is nice enough to favour your and mine individual well being?

I am sure you wish there would be, but that does not make it so.

I haven't read the books you quote, but I know some of the authors (not personally, mind you) and I don't think they are actually advocating what you think they are.
But even if they do, try to read up a bit on history, and especially on the evolution of mankind's psychology over the past hundred millenia or so.

Or for a more practical exercise, picture your favorite multi-national. Think of what motivates it and what might influence their behaviour. I bet your well-being is very low on their list of immediate concerns. Even when they have no active policy to want to hurt it either.

Practical Geezer
Thursday, February 20, 2003

"What bugs me about the thread (and others like it) is more the question whether you (individually or collectively) have the right to tell me how to run my business, what choices I should make, and so on. "

We call this civilization. In a civilized society we protect the common good, especially in cases were it is not in line with pure individual optimization. You seem to favor more of a "law of the jungle" type of approach, counting on the enlightenment of all men to come to a wise self restraint behavior. Open your eyes and look around you. Do you see wise self restraint, or do you see selfish optimization at all cost?

"For me, the deciding factor of the whole thing is that the interference is always brought about forcefully.  Not through persuasion or education or reason, but through force." 

Education and reason work in some cases, but most of the time enforcement is the only choice.  Even as we speak, the system of nation states is crumbling, and anarchy is on the rise. This has many factors lying at its cause, but the combination of the great advancements in destructive science and technology (how much damage can 10 determined individuals cause before they can be eliminated) and a general decline of what could loosely be called "morals and ethics" (how much do average people  restrain themselves from short term individual gains at the expense of others) or a deadly cocktail.
We have set the ball rolling. Can it be stopped? Unlikely. Should we try? Definitely.

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, February 20, 2003

According to the latest stats I can find (UK) 80% of men and 70% of women of employable age are actually working.
ISTM that a lot of businesses would be right up the creek if women suddenly stopped working.

Andy
Thursday, February 20, 2003

Practical Geezer,

"So you are basically saying that people being hurt now by irrational or discriminative behaviour should not worry, because in a hundred years or so the system will have weeded out this companies behaviour?"

Actually what I am saying is that people being hurt now by irrational behavior are primarily victims of past interference with the system.  There are two solutions:  1)  stop tampering  or 2)  tamper some more to overcome the original interference.  I am advocating solution #1 - it's the only one that I think can work. Many others seem to prefer solution #2 and seem to be just as convinced that it is the only solution.  Which leads me to...

"But even if they do, try to read up a bit on history..."

I think I am as good a student of history as anyone else.  What I see over and over again is one group forcing another group to do its bidding, always with tragic results.  The few times where you see tampering declining, though, you see prosperity on the rise. 

"So how did slavery start in the first place? And exploitation of peasants in feudal times? And during the industrial revolution?"

Each one of these problems stems from one group using force or the threat of it to subdue and subsequently steal from another group.  None of them comes from everyone leaving everyone else completely alone.

At the end of the day, all of these arguments boil down to what you can derive from a set of basic assumptions.  Either:

1.  You believe that it is never permissible for you to initiate force, threat of force, or fraud against anyone else (the so-called non-aggression principle),

or

2.  You believe that it is sometimes okay, even virtuous, to do these things.

My opinions derive from assumption #1, and even though I don't always manage to live up to it, I try.  I also use it to evaluate the merit of issues like the one we are presently discussing, so you can see why I have made the argument I have made.

Many other folks that have posted here seem to derive their rules of behavior from assumption #2, each confident that they can properly identify the "sometimes" under which aggression is okay.  And not just for themselves, but for everyone under all circumstances. 

Now in order to fully develop this, since "sometimes" covers a wide range, you have to debate each and every case to decide whether force is or is not permissible.  Obviously, this is intractable.  Instead, what happens, is that a majority, or what passes for it, gathers together and forces their interpretation on the heel-dragging holdouts by making their interpretation the "law of the land."  If you happen to be one of those holdouts, well, that's the price you pay so that you can someday use the same mechanism to force your will on some other heel dragger on some other issue where your views happen to be more in line with popular opinion.  The result is an arms-race of sorts with a zillion fractured minorities on one side and a fairly stable group that uses this self-same mechanism to cement its position of "authority" on the other. 

Now someone please extend this chain of logic for me so that we can find where it leads.  Now I feel better ;)  You all have a great weekend.

tired of tedium
Friday, February 21, 2003

By the original post's logic, a business shouldn't hire anyone with a family, male or female.  Or married people. More people on the health insurance means a greater cost.

Hmm... or anyone with a major medical condition...

... or anyone who is likely to suffer short-term disability from another activity, because the business would have to pay for their leave. Motorcyclists need not apply. And forget skiiers, or basketball players, because ACL  repair surgery is expensive.

Aging parents? Hope they don't take family medical leave to care for them.

Yep, stick with the inactive boys who are fresh out of college.

disgusted
Monday, February 24, 2003

I work in a Russian software company. The stuff of Bacup IT contains only women! Why? In Russia female labour is much cheaper, women concentrate better and this increases sufficiency of their work and finally women are simply less demanding then man. At least this is how it works in my country. But there is one little problem: the costumers from abroad are marring our women and taking them away. This occurred already twice and most likely to continue. So maybe this wasn't such a good idea to put so many females together but they do work well even tho' they get pregnant sometimes or leave their jods due to marriage.

Margo Lukunina
Friday, August 20, 2004

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