A Comment from “Why We Are Screwed”

(The original post being commented on is at http://pilantsbusinessethics.com/2014/08/28/business-ethics-women/)

Why We Are Screwed
Why We Are Screwed

Hi James,

It’s your friend over at “Why We Are Screwed” again.

I wanted to reply to your posts, “Women Scared of the Big Issues?” and “Business Ethics and Women”. Thank you for posting them. I wanted to share a few personal experiences with you and your readers.

I spent the last number of years working in an area of science/engineering consulting. Most recently, I had to deal with harassment, wherein I was the unfortunate recipient of an inappropriate sexual remark made by a male coworker, who was attempting to mock and disrespect me. I subsequently left this position because of this and many other reasons; either way, I did not want to continue working in that type of environment and I’ve now been unemployed for many months.

Although overt harassment, toxic workplaces, etc. are issues that affect women, (and not just women of course), the less overt male behavior I observed was probably more disappointing because it was more prevalent yet more difficult to identify since it was just under the surface of the company culture, e.g. a bunch of isolated occurrences/behavioral observations. Let me elaborate.

One manager I worked with always talked about sports with the guys around the office common areas, but never engaged with women in the same way because he just didn’t know how. When the annual company golf tournament approached, this manager made sure to “stack” his team with the best male golfers so he would have a shot at winning, which was obviously much more important to him than encouraging teamwork or just having fun. During one golf tournament I attended, this manager made a comment in front of me at a table of mostly men that he was “able to play 27 holes of golf” and something to the effect of, “women could only do 18 holes or less because they’d be too tired to do more than that”. I’m quite sure he was trying to show off in front of his buddies by blurting out his completely irrelevant comment, and was probably attempting to get a dig in at me because he was upset that I was no longer working in his office. I was the only one to speak up (none of the men at the table would bother, I mean, it didn’t affect them, right?), but none of the women said anything either. I replied sarcastically, “Oh, is that it? Women just can’t do it?”. After I made this comment, there was total silence at the table.

This same manager actually asked a female colleague if she was pregnant during an annual performance review. One could hardly think he was effective at his job, and yet, no one would bother to do anything about it, because well, the business was making money, he’d just been with the company for a long time, and, the company was run by men.

I’ve watched women have children and later leave their jobs, or, after being overlooked for promotion, elect to work part time after having children. There is nothing wrong with this option of course, but is working part time a free choice a woman makes, or is it the result of a workplace refusing to accommodate parental needs? It was absolutely true that some managers thought that it was not possible to promote any woman who was aged 25-40ish, if married and childless, into a management role, since she might potentially have a baby (I emphasize the word potentially, not even pregnant). The problem was, no one thought to ask these women whether they would want to consider taking on more responsibility.

On a positive note, I’ve noticed Generation X/Y and onward males often have a better attitude towards women in the workplace, and thus I hope that the culture will slowly change for the better.

And by the way, since I worked mostly with men, I wore pants to work, but I made sure to speak my mind. It was already challenging enough being a woman in the workplace, let alone reminding other men I was a woman by looking more like one. When in Rome…

(From James Pilant – Pilant’s Business Ethics: “Why We Are Screwed” is one of my favorite web sites to visit and it features a wise and witty author. Please visit it often.)

Public Funding and Science

Public Funding and Science

Today, the good author at “Why We Are Screwed,” commented on my post https://southwerk.com/2014/05/27/do-the-american-people-need-to-become-re-introduced-to-science/

Here is his comment in full. I totally approve.

James Pilant


Yes! I am sure I sound like a broken record – but once again, public funding for science needs to be increased, prospective science/engineering PhD students need to be told that they are unlikely to land assistant professor positions upon study completion, and working conditions for PhDs also need to improve drastically. Universities need to cut the administrative fat, cease functioning like corporation and put the focus on the purpose of university; getting research and teaching done.

I will also argue that the United States should improve its immigration policies and procedures to make it easier to attract and retain talented foreign scientists. Many are unhappy with the American immigration and education system, which does not make it easy for PhDs/post-docs to balance their professional and personal lives.

Canada, which is a resource rich country, needs to spend a larger percentage of its GDP on more scientific research and development, to align itself with the spending of other wealthy countries. The current and recent governments have had dismal records in this regard.

Finally, in Canada/US there are too many PhD scientists working on either post-doctoral salaries — or not in their fields at all.

If we continue down this path there will be fewer and fewer good scientists to learn from – and we will continue to carry out research which is only in the interest of corporations and not the public good.

The web site, Why We Are Screwed is here. Please go and visit. Sign up as a follower and get e-mail updates!

My response to Andi’s Questions

Andi concluded his comments on my last post by asking me these questions, which I will now try to answer.

Whether protests are morally right or wrong, is difficult. What do you think about the following questions?:

Can a protest really influence decisions that there are fair outcomes for everybody? Or is it only a way to highlight unfair procedures?

I have no utopian vision of a world where everyone has a just outcome. It’s not going to happen. Life is messy and many things unfair. However, governments and economies are man made creations and there is no natural law governing them only numerical limitations, so if outcomes are produced by men those outcomes can be changed by men.

Income inequality only reached this level over many years and as a result of many changes both international and purely domestic. So, what can be changed in one direction can be moved into another.

Change is possible.

Now, can the protestors generate any change in the philosophy of the marketplace. Yes,

Over the last 150 years two basic philosophies have run through American Business. The first set is based on Christianity. It’s most pure economic form is the Social Gospel. This continues to the modern day with parallel visions like Marxism which is essentially an economic religion.

The second set is Social Darwinism. Herbert Spencer will be its prophet and it may very well have culminated philosophically with Milton Friedman. Edmund Spencer took the survival of the fittest concept from Darwin. Milton Friedman added Darwin’s concept of natural selection, that is, the process of evolution must not be interfered with to favor the weak.

These have fluctuated in power and influence. Currently, the debate leans very heavily in the direction of free market fundamentalism, the Chicago School of Economics.

What effect can the Wall Street Protests have?

First, they shift the discussion. For most of the previous year, the public was assailed with tales of the dangers of deficit spending, a discussion focus of the American beltway elites but a subject with precious little importance to the great mass of Americans.

Second, it makes the wealthy and the beltway elites uncomfortable. The disdain and over reactions from the right wing media are palpable. You have to understand that in this country, the wealthy are insulated from virtually any criticism. Over the last forty years wealth has become a sign of virtue in many circles. They live in world where the media idealizes them, where the government is an ally which takes their needs seriously and where the lower classes are discussed as overpaid, lazy, fat and lacking initiative. To hear a contrary dialogue is to them astonishing. Let them be astonished.

Third, and most critical, the movement is laying the groundwork for groups of citizens to follow, a template for action. This means that in the future when there is a policy placed before the public, these groups spawned by this political action will be able to present alternatives or start initiatives of their own. Policy battles that have been one-sides will become disputes where more than one point of view is heard.

James Pilant

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Andi comments on the previous post – The 99 Percenters – Why is New York the Center of their Protests?

This is a comment on a previous post –  The 99 Percenters – Why is New York the Center of their Protests?

(The article was actually motivated by one of my reader’s comments on Facebook and while I hope there are elements of a call for economic justice implied in it, I didn’t have any ethical argument except for inequality itself – James Pilant)

Here’s Andi’s response to the post –

While reading this article, I wondered about the ethics and what the author wanted us to tell. Is it the question whether it is morally right that people do the protests in NY or is it the question if it’s ethically that 1 percent of the population in NY owns about 44 percent of all income?! Or is it the more general question whether it is ethically to do protests in the street?

To answer this question it is necessary to know the definition of an ethical decision. A decision is ethically if it affects others, has alternative courses of action and is perceived as ethically relevant by one or more parties.
By comparing the questions with the definition, it becomes clear that the second question cannot be discussed under ethical terms. Only the questions whether it is ethically to to protests or to do them in NY, has alternative courses of actions.
Therefore I focus on protests and try to state my opinion about it.

To answer the question with the postmodern ethical theory (= decision is morally right if the person follows his emotions in a situation), I would say that doing protests to point to abuses is morally okay because it is a good medium to raise high attention in the press and in tv newscasts. But that’s only half of the story. To answer this question in a more rational view, the combination of postmodern ethical theories and ethics of rights and justice is needed. Here the question of fair procedures or fair outcomes comes up.

Whether protests are morally right or wrong, is difficult. What do you think about the following questions?:

Can a protest really influence decisions that there are fair outcomes for everybody? Or is it only a way to highlight unfair procedures?

My great thanks to Andi for taking the time to comment and not just to comment but to comment with intelligence and insight. I want Andi to know that author identification is up to the contributor. If you want to be clearly identified with e-mail, blog links, etc.., you have only to ask and I will modify the posting.


James Pilant

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