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A throw away account so not to cause myself a problem at work (shame I even have to do this). I am from the UK.

I'm wondering if someone can help offer some clarity, is only offering training to certain people to try to enforce equality of outcome not discriminatory? Is there anything I should do or say? I like the company but with this diversity is wrong and will artificially hold back people. I don't feel comfortable saying anything as I feel I would be punished for it.

Context: My company have been recently pushing diversity and inclusion, which is fair, I think we should all have equal opportunities. But to me this comes across as discrimination, they have only going to provide management training to women and "underrepresented groups" along with mentoring exclusively for these identity groups. I work at a very large construction and engineering company, but they are not interested in pursing more female engineers. Our entire finance, HR, digital marketing etc are entirely female but there is no interest in balancing out these departments, only management. To me it seems like people in the company are using diversity to pursue personal goals.

Extra: They keep making us watch these hour long presentations on our "unconscious bias" and how we should recognise this etc to get an idea of this mentality. They provided us with recommended lists, including a particularly controversial book.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Feb 18 at 8:06

5 Answers 5

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+500

The legal question you are asking seems pretty well addressed by this discussion on law.se. The highest voted answer there provides a rather thorough analysis suggesting that behaviors of the type your company is engaging in may be legal, or, at least, seem reasonably defensible based on a common sense reading of the relevant law (Section 158 of the Equality Act). This section of the law excludes certain practices from being considered prohibited discrimination if they are a proportionate means towards the goal of helping a group of people overcome disadvantages they suffer from due to their race, gender, or other protected characteristics.

Now, to be fair, another answer on that thread argues that the behavior discussed in the question is illegal, and there isn’t an overwhelming consensus that this assessment is wrong. Also that discussion is about behaviors which are somewhat similar, but not identical, to your company’s particular practices, and in these sorts of questions small details can matter a lot. So it’s hard to give a conclusive answer about the legality issue. The main point is that, even if you find your company’s practices distasteful or offensive, it is far from obvious that what they are doing is illegal. (Moreover, it might be useful to reflect on why that section of the law even exists; perhaps that will lead you to conclude that your company’s behavior is less offensive than you initially thought.)

In terms of what you can do, some possible ways I can think of for handling the situation are (in no particular order):

  1. Accept that your workplace, like most workplaces, requires you to tolerate certain policies you disagree with, and find a way to keep being productive and happy at work despite this disagreement.

  2. Speak up forcefully against the policies you disagree with and try to convince people the policies are misguided. (But be very careful; in the current political climate this could easily end up causing you serious career or reputational harm.)

  3. Look for another workplace that has policies you approve of more.

  4. Speak to a lawyer and see if the law might prohibit these behaviors after all and whether legal means can be used to change the company’s practices.

  5. Reflect on whether your disagreement with the company’s practices actually makes sense, and consult with friends, colleagues and people you trust. Perhaps you will reach the conclusion that what the company is doing is ethically as well as legally justifiable after all. Even if you don’t reach that conclusion, you may at least come to better appreciate the opposing point of view and where the people advocating it are coming from with their beliefs, and grow less resentful and more tolerant of your company’s practices.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Feb 20 at 9:26
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    @Old_Lamplighter much obliged for the bounty 🙏
    – Dan Romik
    Feb 21 at 20:52
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This is universal problem. Correcting historic wrongs is important but sometimes people and corporates overcorrect it and repeat the same mistakes on other side.

I'm wondering if someone can help offer some clarity, is only offering training to certain people to try to enforce equality of outcome not discriminatory?

Sounds discriminatory but it may be tough to fight this battle. You go too far with it, you may be "branded as a white man trying to stop progress of minorities."

Is there anything I should do or say?

Depending on what you want. Unless it is really depriving you of basic rights and opportunities, it may be better to not do anything. If it is just about the training, then let it go. You will get other opportunities. If it is about principle, make a respectful and formal objection so that it is in records but do not insist on being on the training.

It will be uncomfortable from this point whatever way you get in. You can escalate your objections if you find this is repeated issue.

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    Just curious, what "historic wrongs" are you specifically having in mind? For instance, enslavement of other people? Because that is something that pretty much each one of the races has done to other races.
    – user132962
    Feb 19 at 22:35
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    That being one, limited rights for women being other. Religious persecution, etc. About other part of your comment, I agree in general but the magnitude of persecution by one race is lot more compared to other way round. Everyone acknolwedges it and hence the OP is having the problem he is having.
    – PagMax
    Feb 20 at 4:10
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Regardless of whether or not this practice is legal or ethical, you should start looking for a new job.

There are two enormous red flags here:

  1. That the company is concerned with the diversity traits in management but not at any other level of the company (and that this diversity is biased against you, as a straight white man). What this means is that promotion track is biased against you; you will be passed over for promotions, even if you are qualified, due to your characteristics. Certainly, they will not say as much (outwardly admitting to such would put them in legal hot water) but they will do it and create excuses as to why they're doing it (see also: the copious questions on this board of the general form: "I'm working a lot and everyone likes my work but I haven't been promoted in 3 years").

  2. That you are not being exposed to new technologies or new tools or new skills which would help you be productive in your work. While others are being trained on these new techniques, you are left behind to try to learn or figure them out for yourself. This will impact your productivity and give your company an excuse to promote others over yourself, among other issues. In terms of issues that will affect you at other companies if you were to job search later, if person X is more skilled with A technology than person Y, then tasks using A will be given more readily to X than to Y, because X can do them more effectively. That means not only is Y not skilled with A, but Y will not become experienced with A, and experience highly correlates with skill. Over a large enough set of technologies A, this effectively means, in the worst case, that Y gets benched, and then, eventually, fired.

Both of these things are very bad, as you can tell, and both of them seem to be likely outcomes of this situation as described. If this were happening to me, I would take this as a clear signal that I am no longer welcome at this company, and I would find a company where I am more welcome. Perhaps one way to satisfy a DIE (Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity) initiative is to simply force all the non-diverse people at the company to quit, then those who remain are the ones who adhere to DIE. Noteworthy is that, if this is actually the case (that they are targeting this training to force undesired employees to voluntarily quit) and you believe you can prove it in court, there is a law known as Constructive Dismissal which exists in some countries, mostly former British Commonwealth countries, which may allow you to sue your employer for this sort of thing.

In any case, at the absolute least, you should find another job. Regarding whether or not this is legal, you should consult a lawyer and not an online webforum.

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I'm wondering if someone can help offer some clarity, is only offering training to certain people to try to enforce equality of outcome not discriminatory and illegal?

It's certainly illegal, even in the UK.

Do you have this in writing? If so, I'd recommend getting the Law involved.

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    I'm a long way off "certain" that this is illegal. Feb 17 at 17:08
  • It is certain with the source. Linking the relevant part of the 2010 equality act would help this answer a lot Feb 17 at 17:21
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    Let me cite this source from the 2010 Equality Act guidance: "Circumstances when being treated differently due to race is lawful: an organisation is taking positive action to encourage or develop people in a racial group that is under-represented or disadvantaged in a role or activity." equalityhumanrights.com/en/advice-and-guidance/… Feb 17 at 21:26
-6

Go to your doctor and ask them to diagnose you with some minor disability.

In many cases, one of the protected categories promoted by these sorts of diversity initiatives are people with disabilities.

So, if your work is deciding to discriminate against straight white men, and you don't want to quit and find a job at a non-discriminatory company, then your best course of action is to go visit your doctor to get diagnosed as having some minor form of disability. Headaches, back pains, minor psychological issues, whatever. It'd all count as a disability, and by getting a doctor to diagnose it, you'll have a piece of paper you can show the HR department that says so.

I'm not suggesting that you lie about these things, mind you; that would be fraud. I'm simply suggesting that you find an advantageous truth.

Then, you'll be able to take full advantage of the diversity policies that were previously working against you.

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    Good and pragmatic answer. I guess that, in the current political climate, health issues like chronic pain and psychological disorders aren't as "trendy" as being a person of color -- hence the downvotes. Regarding the advice in this answer as illegitimate is also de facto a silent admission of the ridiculousness and unfairness of those "diversity pushes".
    – user132962
    Feb 22 at 21:19
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    An answer straight out of the “two wrongs make a right” school of thought… The kind of arms race of self-victimization you’re advocating for is precisely what got our society to the point that OP is describing in their question.
    – Dan Romik
    Feb 22 at 23:13
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    @user132962 The downvotes are because this is fraud. Feb 23 at 4:28
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    @MichaelMcFarlane It's not fraud if you don't lie. A minor disability that doesn't require any accommodations is still a disability.
    – nick012000
    Feb 23 at 7:03
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    It reads as if you advise people to make something up. You don't get disability for having headaches once in a while. I would understand if this read "if you have a disability, now is the time to formalize it", but as you have phrased it, every straight white male should just go get one. As if it's some tax refund you haven't utilized yet.
    – nvoigt
    Feb 23 at 7:29

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