© 1990 Karen Selick
Stop the Lunacy
An edited version of this article first appeared in the June 27, 1990 issue of The Globe and Mail.  If you wish to reproduce this article, click here for copyright info.


Stop the Lunacy 

THE Ottawa Citizen, The Montreal Gazette and the Southam Newspaper Group must be patting themselves on the back over the new policy they have adopted toward female employees. In future, the salaries and advancement of senior newspaper managers will depend partly on their efforts to recruit and promote women. 

As a woman who has put years of hard work into building a career in a field dominated by men, I'd like to send a message to these guys: do us all--men and women alike--a favor, and stop this lunacy. 

We must presume that, in the past, the salaries and promotions of newspaper managers depended on their doing the best job they could to make their papers readable, appealing and, ultimately, profitable. Part of that job would be discovering and cultivating the most promising talent available, regardless of whether it came in male or female packaging. 

Even if, for the sake of argument, we accept the premise that many newspaper managers were biased against women, the competition among managers to turn out the best product (and thus boost their own salaries and positions) would have made it personally costly for them to indulge their prejudices. Unless they were willing to jeopardize their own careers, they would have had to promote women if that was the best way to improve the paper. 

Therefore, the old system of compensation should have brought to light all those unpolished gems of female talent--if they were really out there seeking to be discovered. 

This is not to suggest that women don't have talent. On the contrary, they have it in roughly equal proportions to men. However, they don't all choose to use it in the same manner as men do. 

The reason may be sociological--or biological. Until we find a way to control the experiment by making it possible for men to have babies, no definitive verdict may be possible on this point. 

But those who bemoan women's slow progress in newspapers seem to overlook the possibility that there may not be that many women in the industry who desire or actively work toward promotion. 

Thirty-six per cent of Southam employees are female, but only 5 per cent hold management positions. What we don't know is how many of those women have refused promotions because their husbands were unwilling to relocate, or how many simply don't want the stress of more senior positions because it would take time away from their families. 

Meanwhile, as a reader, I want to buy the best newspaper that can be produced, and I don't care whether it's produced by men or women. If promotion by merit is replaced by promotion by sex, all readers, men and women, will be the losers. 

Frankly, the recommendations of Southam's task force on women's opportunities are insulting. I am tired of being lumped into the trinity of the downtrodden--women, the disabled, and visible minorities. I don't want charity from anyone. I resent the continual efforts to bludgeon white males into giving me and other women advantages that, as individuals, we have not earned.                  

It used to be that women who became successful in male fields earned the respect of all who witnessed their achievement. As the trend toward quotas and other affirmative-action programs continues, I have detected a change in attitude: now people assume that women in prominent positions are there as a result of tokenism. Instead of respect, we get derision. 

And from men who have been passed over for jobs or promotions because of their sex, we get resentment. This is not making the world a better place to live in. 

Men, if you still have any goodwill at all toward women, don't patronize us. Deal with us on the basis of our merits. Don't let the genuine achievements of some be devalued by the counterfeit currency that affirmative-action groups are trying to force into circulation. 

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January 18, 2001