All animals are equal


…but some animals are more equal than others!

I expect you’ll recognise the above quotation from George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’.

The interesting thing is it suggests that what we should be striving for is to demonstrate equality as an absolute – and I’m not sure that’s really possible.  Can we really say that everyone is exactly equal to everyone else? I don’t think so. Take ten different people with as nearly as possible the same characteristics and give them all the same opportunities – and after say five years you’ll have ten different outcomes.

In HR and business matters, the term equality is usually coupled with ‘anti-discrimination’. I’ll tell you a way to get a brownie point when you’re attending a workshop on discrimination, wait until the speaker asks ‘Who here thinks they discriminate’ and stick your hand up. You’ll get some funny looks and mutterings ‘Gosh – he discriminates!’, But actually everyone in the room should have their hand up. Why? because  we all discriminate all the time!  It simply means making a choice. Shall I wear a white shirt or a blue shirt today? Which breakfast cereal shall I buy?

In fact, far from being a dirty word, ‘discriminating’ can be a term of approval as in  ‘our products appeal to the discriminating customer’. Used in that sense it suggests not only that the customer will be making a choice, but that he or she is an individual who makes wise choices.

We all know that ‘anti-discrimination’ policies and procedures are aimed at avoiding unlawful discrimination, that is, discrimination on the basis of what are known as ‘protected characteristics’, such as race, gender, age etc.   However I hope I’ve demonstrated that discrimination (when it is not unlawful) can be a good thing, and that what we should be aiming for is equality of opportunity.  Different people are happy with different things.

Do share with me instances where discrimination has worked for you, or where you’ve seen different results despite opportunities being equal.