A new growth industry

I have just listened to a recent podcast wherein my friend Prof. Robert Washburn interviewed Cobourg Councillor Emily Chorley. She explains why the Town of Cobourg was launching an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion project; read and listen here on consider-this.ca.

When asked for an example of a personal issue with exclusion Ms Chorley could only point to her mother’s case in 1970 where she was denied a job because of the colour of her skin. The interview continued and Ms Chorley admitted that she doesn’t know how prevalent the issue of discrimination based on gender, race or other causes is in Cobourg but  “unconscious bias lies under the surface.”

While I would be the first to admit that discrimination does exist, particularly against the disabled that is an accessibility issue, not gender based or a racial issue. How the Town as an employer or a service provider is dragged into this issue is a discussion in itself.

The biggest growth industry in the Human Resources field (HR) is sensitivity training. Wikipedia definition here. Sensitivity training, also known as diversity training, is a type of program designed to help facilitate respect between groups that include people with different genders, religions, ages, races, or sexual orientations. The exact procedures can vary depending on the leader of the training, but typically involve lectures, discussions, and exercises to help participants understand and respect one another. The training can be implemented anywhere, but tends to be most common in workplaces and educational environments. 

As seen in the quote above this type of training is deemed necessary when members of a diverse workforce have inter-personal problems, that affect the workplace.  The need for such training becomes apparent when the behaviour in the workforce emerges when one person cannot see the problems of another  because they are not of the same socialisation or ethnic group or same class of Society as they are. In other words they cannot see or don’t care about the feelings of a co-worker.  If a worker demonstrates such outward behaviour then it must be corrected if the workplace is to be an efficient and cohesive one.

Enter HR with a busload of consultants, usually called ‘diversity trainers’ and workshops ensue, all designed to correct behaviour.

BUT that type of visible behaviour is not enough for the zealots. If you do not demonstrate bias, they say, it is still there and has to be exposed. This is “Unconscious Bias”: a quote from Psychology Today, “Unconscious bias (also known as implicit bias) refers to unconscious forms of discrimination and stereotyping based on race, gendersexualityethnicity, ability, age, and so on. It differs from cognitive bias, which is a predictable pattern of mental errors that result in us misperceiving reality and, as a result, deviating away from the most likely way of reaching our goals

Back to the “Thought Police” – this activity; rooting out unconscious bias is a universal activity conducted by consultants and sold to Society as a necessary activity. The problem is that this problem is a state of mind not expressed in physical activity so it cannot be seen. But these practitioners will expose it through a series of exercises/workshops at great expense and mental upheaval for those that will be affected by its discovery.

If any of the members of Council can show me an example of where the Town has excluded any one from its activities then I might agree that it is necessary, but until then “I am from Missouri (the show-me State)”. Leave well alone, the Town employees are smart, and aware enough to know how to relate to Cobourgers.

10 thoughts on “A new growth industry

  1. My thoughts exactly Ben. It has always puzzled me when issues of this type are raised and workshops etc are held they are invariably for management only and do not include the people most affected. The more things change the more they remain the same.

  2. Just a few months ago I read an article that said the DSM  (list of mental disorders) was essentially useless as all of them blended into each other.  This was so prevalent that trying to define mental issues was impossible and a fool’s errand.  If a professional discipline can’t do it, I am at a loss to see how town councilors can.

    1. I am at a loss as to how and why you believe reading an “article” qualifies you to have any opinion at all. Is the article from Psychology Today or MAD magazine?

      The DSM is, after all, the best tool we have in attempting to classify all the mental health disorders. It is fun at least, to classify one’s friends and enemies.

  3. You all might might want to consider the very obvious fact that everyone, author and commentariat (including me), on this page are white men.  I don’t know that we are well-equipped by experience to judge where and when exclusion or discrimination exists unless it is rather obvious and in our pale faces.

    1. Draper’s blog is the same: the ultimate screed for old, affluent white guys.

      I figure women have more important things to do.

    2. Yes Derek, I believe you that all the comments have been written by white people and those of us who do not walk in the shoes of minorities cannot understand their plight, as they feel it. However in the absence of understanding let’s have cases and examples of that lack of inclusion. Don’t wallow in the ‘white guilt’ and try to root out my unconscious because it is thought that I may have bias that I do not know about!

      1. sO YOUR DEFAULT SETTING IS THAT THERE IS NO DISCRIMINATION UNTIL EVIDENCE IS PRESENTED TO THE CONTRARY?  Sorry, not shouting…  And if that’s the case then if there is exclusion then necessarily all the decision-makers are the beneficiaries of that exclusion and we can expect them to be resistent to or unable, by virtue of their privilege and positon, to agree that there is and do something about it.  This post and comments are a fine example of that.


        Perhaps a minor point in comparison, but your bit about such studies being a job creation project for HR consultants: not so.  They are the result of people of colour and others organizing within their communities and their unions.  And unions then pressing employment equity on employer.


        Saying such things are HR scams is rather like saying collective agreements and trade unions are the creations of labour relations consultants on the make.


    No it is not and if you want to discuss this topic then don’t put words in my mouth. I would not be so stupid to say that there is no discrimination in this world against anybody especially minority communities. However for the Town to set up a commission to investigate the lack of inclusion, as opposed to fighting discrimination, I still want to know where the Town is at fault, by excluding people, as opposed to a touchy-feely political stand.

    And again if you read the article my criticism is against the need to root out unconscious bias. Sorry if I don’t believe that this is a problem when we haven’t rooted out with sensitivity training all the miscreants. You start to play with my unconscious thoughts just to fix a perceived problem and we are on very dodgy ground.

    And please don’t patronise me with implying that I do not understand trade unions, if you knew my history you would not do that!

    And the last word is that sensitivity training is a necessary part of modern HR, but the thought police is not.

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