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The Week That Was: A Case for Positive Discrimination

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As a general rule, I've always been against positive discrimination, and not just because anything with the word 'discrimination' in its make-up seems to be a bad thing.

My opinion wasn't so much that minority or discriminated groups didn't need a helping hand, but I hated the idea that it could ever be questioned whether someone got a job simply to fill a quota. Even if that woman/black/homosexual/ethnic minority/disabled/older/younger individual got the job and excelled, if it was widely known positive discrimination had played a part, surely it would hang over their performance, good or bad, for however long their career lasted, and more than likely affect the way their colleagues viewed them.

Well, I've changed my mind. And, in part, I blame Kira Cochrane.

In December, the Guardian journalist published an insightful, and frankly exhausting, study into the number of women in high-profile media positions. (I dread to think about the number of hours that must have gone into researching it.) The synopsis of her article: there aren't enough. To give you a flavour of the analysis, 78% of newspaper articles are written by men and 84% of reporters and guests on the Radio 4 Today Show are also men.

As an editor (female, in case the picture and name didn't give it away), and one who runs a newsroom with a fairly even split of men and women, it struck a sensitive chord. However, I read it, ranted a little to whoever I could find to listen, and then sat back smugly and proudly thought, it's not like that where I work.

Why do I bring this up now? In part due to a brilliant blog I read on the New Statesman website this week, and in part due to an interview Cameron found time to squeeze in-between his first PMQs, arguing with Alex Salmond and his trip to Saudi Arabia.

The blog in question asked, quite pertinently, Are the media racist?' and pointed out that every single national newspaper editor in the UK is white, and all the national political editors are also white. Anyone who has been watching the Leveson Inquiry will probably not be surprised. To borrow Mehdi Hasan's summary, 'It is a deeply depressing state of affairs.'

On the same day I spotted the blog, David Cameron announced he would be doing his 'bit' to get more women in parliament with a personal commitment to a ensuring a third of his ministers are female. He of course caveated the whole gesture with a post-script about being in a coalition and that changing 'the arithmetic', so I'm not holding my breath over whether anything happens any time soon.

Whichever way you look at it, as a country we are not doing enough to stem the centuries-old tradition of having white, middle-class men holding all the positions of power.

I was approached this week by a blogger looking to report from Davos for us in the coming weeks. She will be there not to wrestle with the finer details of our financial futures, but to follow a group of women who are in attendance, as part of a film project she has in the works.

In her words, it will be interesting 'to see whether more women will attend this year as it was pretty much James Brown's Man's World in my eyes last year, despite the "semi" imposed corporate quota of one woman in every delegation of five. And, no, assistants and wives do not count as an effort!'

In every walk of life, in nearly every area of business, politics and media, it is time to do better.
Positive discrimination may not be the answer, but as we've failed to find any other answer to the issue, it's getting my personal vote from here on in.

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