Eh, Manc-epation!

Well thank heavens for that:

I’m delighted the University of Manchester has finally gone slave-free. I couldn’t sleep most nights when I was there due to the singing, clanking of chains, and the crack of the whip. The gladiator fights were to die for, though.

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Reaming, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic

Via a reader, this article:

The headteacher of Heavers Farm Primary School in South London suspended two 10-year-old Christian students after one of them asked for permission not to participate in an LGBT lesson during “Gay Pride Month.”

In the Middle East “respecting” Islam means participating fully in Ramadan or risking punishment. In British schools, “tolerance” for homosexuality means actively celebrating it.

The headteacher, Susan Papas, who obliged schoolchildren to participate in a “Gay Pride” parade last year, told the two children, who are both of African descent, they are “a disappointment to the school,” Christian Concern reported Monday.

Oh, they’re black. I’ve suddenly detected racism in Ms. Papa’s remarks.

On June 20, pupil Farrell Spence asked his teacher Alex Smith for permission not to take part in a lesson when Mr. Smith handed out LGBT material for coloring. The teacher denied the permission, insisting that the LGBT lesson was part of the curriculum.

This has nothing to do with tolerance and everything to do with indoctrination of the sort Section 28 was designed to prevent.

After class, Mr. Smith allegedly accused Farrell of using “homophobic language” and saying, “LGBT sucks and LGBT’s dumb,” which the child categorically denies.

Which is what children say about anything they don’t like.

The teacher asked Farrell where he was from and the boy responded that he was of “African Jamaican” heritage, and there “everybody is Christian and Catholic, so they don’t accept LGBT.”

If he’s capable of expressing himself like that perhaps he’s a little past colouring exercises? It would equally explain the reluctance of a 10-year old to take part as any in-built homophobia.

Later, head teacher Papas reportedly called in the two children and shouted at them: “How dare you? You are a disappointment to the school.”

Ms. Papas, whose daughter Attie is a lesbian and the School Manager, next put the children in separate rooms and scolded Kaysey: “How dare you say that you want to kill LGBT people?”

In other words, you have an LGBT political activist masquerading as a teacher and abusing their position to indoctrinate children.

Heavers Farmer Primary School educates 750 pupils in a multicultural and multi-religious borough of South London. Along with the School Manager, the Assistant Headteacher Robert Askey is also openly gay.

Uh-huh.

The mothers of the two children complained to the Principal Officer, citing school regulations that state it is unlawful to suspend a student for “a non-disciplinary reason.”

The parents insist their children did not make homophobic comments and have accused the headteacher of failing “to eliminate discrimination based on religion or belief.” They also cited the European Convention of Human Rights, saying it requires that schools respect the manner in which parents seek to raise their children in accordance with their Christian faith.

And we’re back to where we were with the Muslim parents in Birmingham a couple of months back. Now normally it would be easy to dismiss these Christian parents as bigots, but with they’re being African it’s not so easy. Who wins this hand of victimhood poker?.

This is not the first run-in the school and its headteacher has faced over LGBT activism.

In June 2018, the school organized a “Gay Pride” parade in its playground, posting rainbow flags around the school, and telling students to wear bright colors for the event.

Ms. Papas also invited parents to watch the “Proud to be Me!” parade and join in celebrating “the rainbow of things that make them and their family special.”

At that time, 14 Christian parents complained that Papas was “forcing a very aggressive LGBT agenda on to young children in a manner which abuses parental rights and victimises parents.”

Well yes, it’s run by political activists. Welcome to compulsory state education.

In response, Papas declared she was standing against homophobia: “We stand by our decision to celebrate national Pride Month by teaching British values.”

The subject matter may be different, but these values sound more Soviet than British.

Izoduwa Montague, the mother of one of the students and a Christian, refused to allow her four-year-old son to take part in the parade and complained to the Education Secretary that the school had embarked on “systematic proselytism of its young and vulnerable pupils.”

Which is exactly what opponents of teaching children this stuff in schools predicted would happen.

Montague says she felt “bullied” after she complained that her child was “forced to take part in an event that goes against our Christian beliefs,” and later transferred her child to a Catholic school.

Where I expect they received a better education.

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Dutch Coven

We’re going to be seeing a lot more of this:

A Dutch engineering university is taking radical action to increase its share of female academics by opening job vacancies to women only.

Starting on 1 July, the Eindhoven University of Technology (TUE) in the Netherlands will not allow men to apply for permanent academic jobs for the first 6 months of the recruitment process under a new fellowship program.

Thus implying that women are only able to secure employment if men are excluded. Hurrah for female empowerment!

“We have been talking about [gender balance] for ages,” says TUE President Robert-Jan Smits. “All kinds of soft measures are taken and lip service is paid to it.

So why have you not resigned and handed your post to a woman? I’ve written about such people before:

At every step of their career they would have sandbagged and outmaneuvered anyone who represented competition, be they white, brown, yellow, male, or female. When they were middle managers somewhere eyeing their next promotion they weren’t harping on about the need for greater representation or increased diversity. No, they were promoting themselves. But now the top job is securely under their belt and retirement on the horizon, they want other people to sacrifice their career ambitions on the altar of diversity politics.

Back to the article:

Currently, 29% of TUE’s assistant professors are women; at the associate and full professor level, about 15% are women. With this program, TUE wants to reach 50% of women for assistant and associate professors, and 35% for full professors.

Is this a result of discrimination of the free choice of women? If both, what difference is down to discrimination alone? They don’t care of course, and are instead pushing for equality of outcome. As Jordan Peterson is fond of saying, this will not lead to a happy place.

The plan was announced today and is already attracting controversy. “People say it’s illegal; they say we will lower standards. That’s a load of baloney,” Smits says. Some critics say the program discriminates against men. “Yes, absolutely,” Smits says. “For years, men have been discriminating against women, and women haven’t been paid the same as men for the same jobs.”

So the way to atone for Smits’ generation discriminating against women is to start discriminating against the current generation of men? This is an idea so stupid it could only come from an academic.

Dutch and EU laws allow policies to recruit underrepresented groups, TUE says.

Of course they do: they are the result of special interests lobbying for greater power and privileges, and have nothing to do with equality.

[Biologist Isabelle Vernos] worries TUE’s program could place a burden on female recruits, who may face suspicion about their abilities and anger about the process.

Well, yes. Any woman who could have got the job in a fair competition against male applicants will be dismissed as a token diversity hire. This is why any competent, self-respecting female academic should avoid this institution like the plague.

The program is named after Irène Joliot-Curie, the daughter of Marie Skłodowska-Curie, who received a joint Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.

I feel irony is somewhat wasted on the administrators at TUE.

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Galactic Cluster

I have five three-hour exams this week folks, so I’m afraid blogging will be non-existent or of poor quality. In keeping with that, via a follower on Twitter I’ve discovered an academic paper in the Journal of High Energy Physics entitled:

Do black holes create polyamory?

I confess I haven’t read it, and it’s not because I’m busy with exams. But it has made me wonder if I’ve not already covered a large chunk of my dissertation in this blog:

Is polyamory the answer to carrier bags and plastic waste?

A tenured professorship beckons.

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After School Detention

Back in August 2017 I wrote a post about a teacher in my old school who’d been jailed for sexually abusing boys when he was at previous schools. I didn’t link to the original news story or name the guy because I didn’t want my old school associated with him on the basis of my blog post. However, I can now say his name is Jonathan O’Brien and the story of his conviction is here. I am able to do so because of this new report:

A former teacher from Bosham has been jailed after being found guilty of indecent assault on a teenager.

Jonathan O’Brien, 61, was sentenced at Guildford Crown Court on Friday (24 May) having pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault in the 90’s when he worked at a West Sussex college.

PC Yvonne Daddow said: “This offending came to light when the victim contacted us for the first time in 2017. Having courageously come forward he supported our investigation and was ready to give evidence in court if necessary.

“It became clear that O’Brien had used an allegedly mutual interest in computers to in effect gradually ‘groom’ the boy into sexual activity, in O’Brien’s study at the school and his home in Oxfordshire. The boy kept the distressing experiences to himself for more than 20 years until an chance family discussion to some media coverage on the general subject of sexual offending triggered him into coming forward.”

I learned about this because my school sent a letter out to its former pupils informing us. This happened while I was at the school, and I have a good idea who the boy was. I have an even better idea of which other boys he may have been eyeing up for similar treatment, which earned him a reputation of a wrong ‘un among the pupils and at least one or two of the staff. I’m glad the boy in question came forward, and it’s a shame we were all a couple of years too young to have sorted O’Brien out ourselves. I hope the boy – now a man – feels a bit better now.

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Lovers and Other Strangers

Via Tim Worstall, this article needs a fisking:

David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, told the Observer that identity politics had been hugely important in advancing the civil rights of many groups. But he warned of a danger that “individual interests” were narrowing people’s views and diminishing their connection to wider society.

Assigning special protections and privileges to certain minority groups at the expense of the wider population has weakened the social fabric? Who would have thought?

Speaking amid an intensifying row in Birmingham, where a group of predominantly Muslim parents have staged protests outside schools accused of promoting same-sex relationships, he suggested the commission would be prepared to use its legal powers to protect the teaching of LGBT issues in the face of opposition from faith groups.

You might just as easily say the commission could use its legal powers to protect the right to practice one’s religion and peacefully oppose government policy in the face of LGBT activists.

“We are a strategic regulator,” Isaac said. “We can’t support absolutely everybody, but we will take cases where we thinks it moves the law forward to protect human rights.”

Let’s be honest, your only problem here is that one protected class is facing off against another. If it were anything else, you’d be “moving the law forward” to hound the majority population into cowed acquiescence. Human rights really doesn’t have much to do with it.

Recently the commission has become more vigorous in using its legal powers against groups it believes threaten equality.

Equality being where certain, select groups are given special consideration under the law.

“We are about to make a decision whether to investigate antisemitism in the Labour party, and that’s a good example of where, without fear or favour, we are saying in relation to political parties, whether it is Islamophobia in the Tory party or whatever, that if we find unlawful acts we are prepared to use our powers to do something about it,” Isaac said.

If members of political parties hold opinions which contravene our self-serving and deliberately vague laws defining which views may be held, we will use our powers to prosecute them. To protect human rights.

On Friday, Birmingham city council took the decision to close Anderton Park primary school, where parents have been protesting for seven weeks, early for the half term. The MP for Birmingham Yardley, Jess Phillips, has attacked the decision, which she said was down to “bullies and bigots” and contrary to the Equality Act.

Isn’t the right to protest a fundamental human right? Or is there a clause which makes protesting certain viewpoints a crime? I’m confused.

“Everything that is happening at the Anderton school in Birmingham is probably making some headteachers nervous about their commitment to teaching about minority [same- sex] families,” Isaac said.

Headteachers are “probably” nervous? Time to abandon party politics and form a unified, national government until this existential threat is eliminated, don’t you think?

“Part of our job is to remind people that the law is the bottom line.”

And thanks to the vagueness with which it is written and the subjectivity with which it is enforced, the law is whatever we decide it is.

Anderton, a number of other Birmingham schools, and several outside the West Midlands have been targeted by religious groups who say they have concerns about teaching materials shared with pupils, which they claim promote LGBT equality and conflict with the teachings of their faith.

So you have conservative authoritarians arguing with progressive authoritarians over how children are best indoctrinated. Meanwhile, those who think kids should simply be taught reading, writing, and arithmetic at school are unrepentant bigots who must be purged from society.

“As a gay man who’s been very involved in the LGBT movement, I think identity politics have been hugely important historically, and it would be very easy to say identity politics has gone too far,” Isaac said.

Just in case anyone thought the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission ought to be neutral on this issue. Is his deputy an Imam?

But he acknowledged that such politics could be corrosive. “We are living in a world that is more divided, there’s more individualist thinking in relation to what is happening and less empathy, less hope.”

Thanks in large part to that industry you head which goes around slapping labels on people and threatening them with criminal prosecution for wrongthink.

The challenge, he suggested, was to ensure “we don’t end up in the siloed world where everybody is hypersensitive about their own individual interests and less empathetic about how other people are treated.”

Rarely does the head of an organisation come out and state their biggest challenge is the result of their own efforts.

He added: “The key issue is how do we move beyond the ‘I’ to the ‘we’, how do we think of ourselves as citizens in a country or in the world who are not just focused on what works for me and my narrow group. How do we ensure that we think about people who are different to us?”

Ooh, I don’t know. Maybe we could try a version of politics which emphasises what makes us the same – language, culture, shared history, values – rather than what makes everyone different and thus deserving of special treatment.

One solution, he suggested, would be for schools to include citizenship classes in their curriculum, to help them become “citizens of the 21st century”.

Yes, because the one thing missing from the lives of the parents protesting outside the schools is an appreciation of when Britain got its first female MP.

“Teaching kids about not just same-sex relationships but what it is to be a good citizen would be a really important start,” he said.

So Soviet kindergartens only with Lenin in drag.

Finding common ground where all parties accepted that they were subject to the law that protected minority rights would help remove the “binary” nature that engulfed much of the debate swirling around identity politics, Isaac suggested.

It’s those laws protecting minority rights that are the root cause of this problem, you clot.

“People do see it as a zero-sum game,

That’s because it is. Modern rights always come at the expense of someone else.

and my view is that it’s completely possible to teach the tenets of your faith in school, but at the same time say ‘that child over there has two mothers’.

I find it amusing when people who clearly don’t know the first thing about a religion start talking about how its adherents ought to think. Like with the Israel Folau case they think everyone holds the same wishy-washy pick ‘n choose views as your average pencil-necked modern CoE vicar.

We are asking them to respect somebody else’s lifestyle choice or desire to love someone of the same sex.”

The irony here is that in the theocracies of the Middle East, respecting Islam often means endorsing Islam, particularly during Ramadan. What we’re seeing here is less about respect than forced endorsement.

Isaac drew comparisons between the battle to promote equality and human rights and that now being waged to arrest the climate crisis.

In the sense that it’s a privileged, middle-class angst fest driven by a hatred of the plebs and the phenomenal achievements of developed, western societies, he’s quite right.

“Some things are in crisis, particularly in relation to what is happening to disabled people. We’ve made progress in other areas, LGBT being the obvious one, but when I look at gender and race I think we’ve made less progress.”

As the Communists were always just a million more corpses from utopia, progressives think we’re always another few thousand laws from the population thinking as they should. Note that in among all this hand-wringing there wasn’t a single mention of the majority population and what they might want: it’s all about the minorities. Little wonder society is fragmenting.

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Masters of Business Awareness

So now I’m two thirds of the way through my MBA, not counting the dissertation. Have I learned anything? Yes, I have. I wrote previously about how useful I found the class on statistical analyses, but I’ve also now got a good appreciation of accounting and finance. By way of a benchmark, I didn’t even know the difference between accounting and finance before, nor sales and marketing for that matter. Now I probably haven’t learned much more than the basics, but it nevertheless allows me to look at companies quite differently. I also understand a lot more of the terminology which gets used in financial reporting.

I’ve also completed a good class on strategy, something I didn’t think I’d find very useful for some daft reason. I found the difference between commodities and other goods interesting, as well as the different strategies companies pursue in attempting to gain competitive advantage. We did a lot about competitive advantage, and how some companies do well and others fail. Underpinning all of this was a Capsim strategy simulation we played over the term which involved selling electronic sensors while balancing R&D, sales and marketing, production, and financing. I was skeptical at first but once I’d figured out how it worked I got stuck right in, and I came out the other end knowing an awful lot more about competitive advantage and how commercial enterprises work at the strategic level. Alas my team didn’t win the competition; we had in our class a young Ukrainian who was extremely gifted at figuring this stuff out and he left us for dust, but we easily came second.

What this has shown me is how unusual the oil industry is. For a start, there’s just so much money kicking around. I’m studying cases regarding the financing of investments of around $5-10m, which in Exploration & Production represents the money wasted because a manager didn’t want to change a wrong decision because he’d look bad in front of his boss. The first big oil project I was involved in, Sakhalin II, started off with an $8bn budget, it rose to $12bn and eventually came in around $20bn. Nobody really knows. I don’t know what the original budget of Kashagan was, but the main dispute now is whether the final price was $50bn or $80bn. Again, nobody really knows. If any other industry outside of government spent money this way, they’d go bankrupt within weeks.

The oil industry is also unusual in that the main players are partners as well as competitors. In any oil and gas development there is one operator and several partner companies. In the North Sea ExxonMobil often had an equal share of a development alongside Shell, who would operate the thing. This is done to reduce risk and make raising capital easier, but it’s equivalent to Boeing and Airbus teaming up to develop a new fighter for the US Air Force. When we studied flat and tall corporate structures and the characteristics of each, it was obvious which category my former employers fell into. I knew this already of course, but I didn’t realise quite how hierarchical oil companies are compared to other major corporations (one or two readers might find it interesting that the companies most often used to compare tall versus flat organisations were IBM and Intel).

The other thing which struck me about the oil industry is how unbelievably slow and bureaucratic the decision-making process is. In my previous place of work, decisions would take months and sometimes years, involving endless meetings up, down, and across the organisation. There may be good reasons for this, but most commercial operations don’t have this sort of time to waste. During one of the seminars I spoke to a chap who worked for a big pharmaceutical company in Switzerland, and he showed me the app he uses for processing and submitting his expense claims. He scans the receipts, clicks send, and it’s automatically approved within hours. Hotel bookings, flights, and ground transport work much the same way. If someone brought that into an oil company they’d summon witchdoctors to cast out the demons within. Booking tickets and processing expenses in my last place of work involved dozens of people, umpteen signatures, and half a forest for each trip.

Sixteen years in the oil industry has sheltered me from a lot of things, and my MBA is making me see the world in a different way. I’m also beginning to sniff out potential opportunities here and there. That was the primary purpose of doing it, of course.

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Into-the-box thinking

Something I’ve learned doing my MBA is that it is possible for someone to be very intelligent, well-credentialed, and clearly a subject matter expert yet show a startling lack of intellectual curiosity or talent for critical thinking.

If someone presents themselves as an expert on a subject and I don’t know them, I try to build trust in what that person is telling me. I do this by asking them a difficult question or challenge something they’ve said. The way they respond will tell you an awful lot about what that person can really teach you. I used to do this with technical experts in my previous job, and most of the time they’d fall over themselves to explain their point in considerable detail. Thanks to one electrical engineer, I now know rather more than I used to about variable frequency drives. Opposite the electrical engineer sat a naval architect who I’d often pop in and see just because he’d start talking about some aspect of his work which I’d find interesting. Other times, particularly with managers but rarely with engineers, the response would be an instant dismissal based on the first thing which popped into their head. They most likely do this because they’re incompetent; they get away with it because of their position in the hierarchy.

But I’ve discovered even knowledgeable people like professors can respond this way too. My theory is it’s possible to become very successful in a given field by applying the prevailing orthodoxy and doing exactly as everyone expects without the slightest deviation. Like this, you can become very competent in your chosen subject – until someone chucks a curveball at you and it becomes clear you’ve had no practice in dealing with dissenting opinions. Some professors clearly like their views to be challenged or a strange idea thrown at them. “Okay, let’s look at this,” one might say and a discussion ensues. Or another will say: “Ah, no. This is why you’re wrong. What you need to consider is…” But others don’t seem to like it at all, and on occasion it’s  obvious they’re hearing common objections to an orthodox position for the first time.

Sadly, I think this is the future of education and expertise. Very bright people will be channeled into narrowly focused areas of expertise and discouraged from ever thinking for themselves outside the boundaries set by those who control the subject. A simple test of this theory is to listen to an expert in one field talk about another. More often than not it’s incoherent, emotionally-driven gibberish reminiscent of a protest organised by high-schoolers. I suspect the root of the problem lies partly in the pervasive culture of credentialism. If the certificate didn’t matter, there’d be no point attending a university or business school to get from a lecturer what you could easily learn by reading a book and doing some exercises. The added value a lecturer brings is the ability to go beyond the orthodoxy, stimulate discussion, push the boundaries a little, explore ideas, and get some real-world experience thrown into the mix. There were one or two classes I’ve had where I’d have happily paid just to hear the professor speak, because he had some fascinating insights into the world of business and management you’d never find in a textbook. But if the certificate is what matters most, lectures will turn into sessions where a professor simply regurgitates whatever you can find online or in a book.

The trouble with me – and there is always trouble with me – I go to school to learn, not to get a certificate. I also have one eye keenly trained on what I paid.

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How to pass exams in subjects you don’t understand

Last semester on my MBA I studied five main subjects, one of which was Quantitative Business Methods (QBM). It quickly became apparent this consisted entirely of statistical analyses, of the sort I don’t think I’d done before. I studied statistics as part of maths A-level and I’m sure I must have done some during my engineering degree, but this definitely seemed new to me.

At the beginning, I couldn’t work out why anyone in business would need to carry out statistical analyses of the sort we were being taught, which was mainly about finding correlations and associations in data. I was rather surprised to discover it was possible to find associations in sets of qualitative data; until then I’d assumed you could only do so with quantitative data. Anyway, the chap teaching us was exceptionally knowledgeable about statistics and appeared to do advanced analyses for fun. He took us deep into the theory, and pretty soon stuff like this was appearing on the board:

I was never very good at maths and when it came to statistics I was very average indeed (did you see what I did there?), so a lot of this confused me. I reckon by the end I grasped about 60% of the theory, and that involved me dredging my memory banks for stuff I’d learned 20 years before. But many of my colleagues had no such background and struggled like hell; one had done a bachelors in tourism, which I’m reasonably sure doesn’t involve giant sigmas surrounded by numbers.

It wasn’t until three-quarters of the way through the semester that I cracked it. I’ve written before about my engineering degree and how I didn’t understand half of what the lecturer said, and the secret is that doesn’t matter. With most engineering subjects there’s a theory part and a practical part. Take for instance the concept of second moment of area. This is the basis for why I-beams make such good structural members: the stress in the beam under load is inversely proportional to its second moment of area. The maths behind the second moment of area disappeared from my understanding decades ago (assuming it was ever there) but the principle behind the second moment of area and the importance of the I-beam cross-section remained forever.

It would have been possible for the lecturer to simply say an I-beam is better than a rectangular hollow section just because, but that wouldn’t have made us very good engineers because we’d have no confidence in the statement. By showing us the mathematical theory behind it, we had that confidence even if we didn’t fully understand the theory. The exam, like many others on engineering subjects, tested our knowledge of the theory as well as its application. To pass the engineering exams it was important to figure out which parts of the theory you were going to be tested on, and how to apply it to the practical part of the question. You did this by asking the lecturer what would be on the exam, getting hold of past papers, and speaking to those in the year above. In other words, most of us got good (enough) at passing the exams and only a handful of the super-geniuses actually understood everything. This was sufficient to produce engineers who can work in industry, where knowledge of the theory isn’t required.

So I figured out that’s what was going on with this QBM course. The professor could easily have said if P(F<=f) is less than 0.05 then there is an association and we could thereafter apply that to datasets in future, but we’d have no confidence in it. So we got taught the theory, and this scared the hell out of everyone (including me in places). But towards the end it became apparent that we were only going to be tested on the application, i.e. how to generate descriptive statistics from a dataset and interpret them rather than the underlying theory, which made it an awful lot easier. From there, it was just a matter of boiling it down into those bits which are really important and disregarding the rest.

Some of my colleagues looked at me as if I was some sort of sorcerer, so I explained that I don’t understand it any more than they do, I just know how to apply the theory in a practical application and what numbers to look for when interpreting the results. I spent two hours before the exam giving several of my fellow students a crash-course in how to pass it, mainly by telling them what was important and what they could ignore. I’m not sure how they got on, but I passed with a good mark and I hope they did too.

Funnily enough, when I started reading the academic papers in preparation for my dissertation I realised the regression analyses being used to determine correlations and associations were those I’d just been taught in my QBM course, so I was actually able to understand the numerical results to some degree. Without that, I probably wouldn’t have any idea how they’d gone about it. Which is why why they teach it, of course. It’s been a while since I’ve learned a new discipline, and it feels rather good.

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Utopian dreams

On Saturday I attended a seminar where we were divided into groups and asked to present some ideas on how we would run a business. All the groups except mine said they would achieve gender equality by staffing their businesses on a 50:50 male to female basis. All but four of those presenting were women, mostly in their early twenties. Someone asked how they would manage sexual harassment issues in such an environment, and the answer came quickly from a bright young woman:

“There would be zero tolerance; anyone who engages in sexual harassment would be immediately fired.”

At this point I piped up to say that sexual harassment is notoriously hard to define, and that a huge number of graduate employees end up in relationships, and often marrying, someone they met on the same program. Will this be outlawed under a zero tolerance regime, or is it only sexual harassment if the girl isn’t interested in the guy? Just then an NHS doctor chimed in with an anecdote. She knows of a case where a doctor asked out a nurse (of about the same age) and she filed a sexual harassment claim against him. The management started trawling and found, to everyone’s horror, he’d asked another nurse out. This was enough to get him suspended for 6 months and, although he’s now practicing again, his name has been dragged through the mud. My doctor colleague  thought this was extremely unfair. Having listened to this, another bright young woman said:

“Well, he should have thought twice about sexually harassing women, then.”

There then followed a discussion on sexual harassment in which someone proposed that, if more than one woman makes a complaint against a man, he should be fired even in the absence of any proof because there’s no smoke without fire. A chap sat behind me didn’t think much of this, and thought people are innocent until proven guilty. I realised that if this is the future, men will simply refuse to engage with women in the workplace beyond speaking in heavily-guarded sentences and ensuring there is always another witness around. Does anyone remember this story, about the professor who was accused of sexual harassment for making a joke about ladies’ lingerie in an elevator? Well, he’s had his appeal rejected. If this keeps up, segregated workplaces will look like an increasingly attractive proposition. At the very least, sensible men will avoid certain women at all costs – and certain companies.

A little later in the seminar, I shifted the conversation. I pointed out that all the business plans I’d seen involved some sort of manufacturing or production process. This will inevitably involve machinery, technicians, warehouses, forklifts, and large trucks. While you will find some women involved in such activities, the overwhelming majority of applicants will be men. However you cut it, women in general don’t want to be working the night shift loading lorries at the back of a paper mill or crawling around under a steam press trying to get a nozzle attached to a grease nipple. So whereas their intentions might be noble, they’re going to really struggle to fill 50% of the available positions with women: there simply won’t be enough of them applying. Women, in general, prefer to work regular hours in offices. In a business where the money is made in manufacturing or production, this makes them overheads.

The response was that very soon all these manufacturing jobs will be done by robots, and in the near future company roles might be better suited to women. I replied that anyone who thinks that has been nowhere near a production facility. The robots replaced the humans way back in the industrial revolution, but wherever there is machinery you still need humans maintaining it and doing the thousand tasks which don’t lend themselves to automation. A modern oil and gas facility can, in theory, run itself 24/7 without human intervention. Yet they have a small army of people monitoring the dials, ready to jump in when things go wrong, and another army working full time on maintenance and inspection. So I remain sceptical that robots will make all these jobs obsolete in the near future.

But the exchange confirmed what I already knew, having written about it before:

It beats me why people are currently wringing their hands at the prospect of robots taking all the jobs, and worrying over how the work will be shared around when we’ve already found the answer: we’ll invent jobs, and pretend it’s real work.

And it’s no secret which demographic is going to be fully engaged in these make-work schemes. But I fear some young women are in for one hell of a shock. When Laurie Penny fantasised last year about robots making men’s work obsolete, she didn’t seem to realise that mindless, repetitive, paper-shuffling in compliance and HR is a far riper target for automation than the stuff men do.

There seems to be money to be made filling the heads of young women with fantasies about 50:50 workplaces in profitable industries where men are fired on the spot for the slightest transgression. These efforts have succeeded to the point many think this is the inevitable future of global businesses. One thing is certain: the manufacturers of antidepressants have a rosy future ahead of them.

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