Peter Zilahy Ingerman, PhD, FBCS - Consultant

We specialize in Computer, Human, and Systems Symbiosis... making all of the parts work together simply and smoothly for the benefit of all the parts!

Avoiding Unintentional Discrimination

The dictionary defines "Discrimination" as treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.

In this day and age most of us try to avoid discrimination in most aspects of our lives, especially in the work place. That doesn't mean it doesn't still happen. Companies, however, should make an extra effort to avoid even unintentional discrimination. I have had two different consulting jobs that involved such discrimination which stand out in my mind.

The first consulting job was some time ago when I was retained to evaluate all of a company's materials for any discrimination on the basis of sex. It was pretty straightforward and easy to fix the few instances I found. There was one instance though where people had a hard time understanding how it was discriminatory. So I had my secretary rewrite the material replacing all references to female/male and women/men with a more obviously discriminatory set of words as a way of making the point. The original materials were quickly reworked and my version was even more quickly and thoroughly destroyed.

But the other instance that stands out in my mind was the head of the company's trying to solicit new female employees with the slogan "Women, are you stuck in a rut" ... He was horrified when I pointed out that "rut" could mean both "cleft" or "furrow" and also a season of heightened sexual activity!

I am available to evaluate your company's written (and other) materials for unintentional discrimination or potential cultural misunderstandings given the international quality to today's markets!