In May 2014 the Engineer Website carried an article entitled ‘Why engineering must start addressing its sexuality issue’ by Stephen Harris, in which he discussed the lack of information about LGBT employees in the industry.
The article included reference to the fact that happy, secure employees will deliver a better performance in the workplace, and said that if the engineering sector is not seen as explicitly supportive, then firms stand to miss out on talented graduate recruits.
A series of responses were posted, some anonymous, by members of the association. One correspondent, called ‘Jacob’ submitted a wonderful reply in a sort of incoherent chav-speak; indeed, his narrative was so clumsy that I suspected it may have been a spoof. I have added questioning notes (in italic) to various sections of his diatribe…
Jacob 16th May 2014 at 3:35 pm
“This smacks of trendy tokenism, forcing the LGBT agenda in to every corner of our lives.
“Firstly, the how I’ll be treated argument weighs very little. It does NOT matter what your sexuality is, what matters is your work output.
[Note: if your work output was the only important factor, then workplace nepotism wouldn’t be a problem. There are numerous instances of incompetent staff being supported by family members on their rise through the company’s ranks. Likewise, it is possible that personal hostility by senior members of staff could hamper the career progress of gay employees, even if their performance at work was outstanding]
“I’ve worked with many strange people whom can only be described as ‘creatures’. They would probably not be tolerated in other industries, let alone accepted, but have found a ‘home’ in engineering because they were so good at their jobs.
“Think back to the geeky school kid, with heavy rimmed glasses, who was bullied by all at school. That guy is as likely as not a respected engineer now.
[Note: how many respected engineers would admit to having been bullied at school, and was Jacob one of them? And again, it is assumed that engineers are exclusively male]
“This brings me to the second point. The recruitment pool argument weighs very little. Just as the school nerds tend towards engineering, those of the LBGT community tend towards the arts.
[Any evidence? This is the type of comment you might expect to see in the Sunday People in 1978, as part of a sensational exposé called ‘The Twilight World of The Homosexual’]
“No disproportionate amount of group hugging will change that. And it amounts to an awful lot of effort for very few people just so a company can claim it is fluffy.
[Perhaps the diversity initiatives carried out by European and US firms have shown an impressive financial return that wouldn’t have otherwise been realised]
“If an effort has to be made, wouldn’t those resources be better spent addressing the social inadequacies of some existing employees? As good communication is the foundation of any business with serious aspirations.
“This might even help get more women into the sector by shedding the dull geek image.
[But he has just defended the dull geeks as being natural born engineers, and said that it doesn’t matter what you look like so long as you are good at your job]
“Lastly, the open sexuality argument weighs very little. A company’s primary responsibility is to seek a profit for the shareholders and secure employment for ALL its employees.
[No, a company’s primary responsibility is to maximise profit for shareholders by any and all legal means. The welfare and security of workers are tiresome burdens which can be overcome by increased use of advanced technology]
“And this isn’t about LBGT staff in a foreign branch feeling secure, where the likelihood of the laws of that country proscribes said sexuality. That company has to follow the laws of the land it operates in, or nobody will work there. Instructing engineers to accept LGBT colleagues is not going to change that.
“It provides the best workplace for all by not concerning itself with its employee’s personal lives, which is pretty creepy anyway.
[The birth of a child, or a major wedding anniversary, or a bereavement; these are aspects of employees’ private lives which have an impact on their performance at work, and need to be shared. If a company maintains a stolid indifference to pastoral welfare, then the workers may feel neglected and will start looking for jobs elsewhere]
“So what have we learnt?
“-Bullying bosses/colleagues are everywhere and at every level, pushing you to a result is their job. They tolerate/accept you on performance.
[I am not sure that any handbook of business studies would advocate bullying as a normal or productive means of getting results. Perhaps it is true that bullying bosses are everywhere; that wold help explain why there is such a high level of staff turnover in engineering]
“-A return from the recruitment pool is unlikely to justify the effort.
“-Private lives are called private for good reasons.
As for the right thing to do, that is the justification for saying tolerating is no longer enough, you must now accept (like).
[Note: The writer seems to find a clear distinction between the world of engineering and ‘the arts’. Surely part of good engineering practice involves component design, using fuel and materials in the most efficient manner possible. This strikes me as being an artistic endeavour – weaving together technical skill and imagination to obtain a superior result.
And when I read comments like these, I wonder if some people turn to careers in engineering because it offers a haven from the messy world of human relationships. People are irrational, uncoordinated, and prone to err; but machines are elegant and reliable.
Other comments made on the message board include remarks such as ‘We should appoint staff on the basis of technical ability, not because of sexuality or ethnic background. This ‘technical ability’ which they so revere does not appear by magic; youngsters are constantly exposed to a bewildering network of influences – parents, teachers, friends. If your dad is an engineer and helps you build model railways and gets you a holiday job in his company’s office, then you might end up having the natural abilities and skills desired by manufacturing firms]