Universities: Can they make up for centuries of discrimination in ten years?

In his 30s, with a PhD in biology and seeing job opportunities evaded by him in academia due to his status as a white man, he questions the importance of correcting centuries of discrimination in just ten years, with the “harmful effects” this could cause.

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The man we’ll call Simon declined to be identified so as not to interfere with job search efforts. He completed his postdoc four years ago. Since then, he has seen many job opportunities away from him due to the equality, diversity and inclusion policies in academia.

“My window of opportunity is closing. Not much is available anymore and it has become more and more complicated.

Opportunities are also closing in the federal public service. Last year, jobs were announced for researchers at Canada’s Department of Environment and Climate Change. Simon’s nomination for interview was not selected. He later explained to her that the female candidates were chosen only for reasons of representation and fairness.

Simon is well aware that this is an “extremely sensitive” issue and shares the goal of a more equitable and inclusive society. However, he questions the deadline for the federal goals and the means put in place to achieve them.

“There is a huge social gain to be made, but there is also a very large individual cost that I am currently facing,” he says.

The objectives of the Federal Program in the University Environment are to achieve gender parity and fair representation of other underrepresented groups within ten years.

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“I understand the problem, but how fast do you have to run the boat? There has been discrimination for centuries and there, in ten years’ time, it must be resolved. To achieve that, we discriminate against those who were privileged in the past.”

Micheline Labelle, professor emeritus of sociology at UQAM, also disagrees with the establishment of “quotas” in the university environment because of the negative effects such a measure could have on white men.

“It generates in them a feeling of anger and injustice that can only be separated from them,” she laments.

At Laval University, where white men have been excluded from certain calls for candidates, it is instead seen as justified to reform past inequality by favoring people belonging to groups that have historically been victims of discrimination.

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