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The Pros and Cons of Diversity in the Workforce

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The story summarized below was written by ENR staff and contributors. The anonymous responses posted by ENR.com readers have been edited.

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The Diversity Report

In this special feature, ENR reported that while some firms merely comply with federal rules regarding minorities and anti-discrimination laws, other firms actively and consciously make diversity a core value.

Donna Riley of Smith College describes engineering as “a system that is still not inclined to be welcoming.” What a disgusting comment. I have been an engineer for over 40 years with many firms and have yet to experience an engineering organization that discriminated against anyone in any way. Except, of course, [when] white males are overtly discriminated against when it comes to receiving government contracts.

As a gay man in the construction industry in the Deep South, I can tell you that our industry—specifically, construction—has moved very little in the past 30 years. I don't wear my sexuality on my shirtsleeve, and I don't impose my beliefs on those around me. All I expect is some mutual respect. I do my job, and I do it very well. However, I'm certain that being gay will most likely stand in the way of future promotions and opportunities.

I agree that diversity is a good thing. However, diversity programs are typically limited to skin color and now apparently include sexual orientation. What about income level? Where are the people fighting to bring low-income rural kids into math and science?

It is interesting that a white male engineer is feeling discriminated against. Look around you and you will find many blacks with a much higher education [level] than you earning less money. Many whites in this country have no college education, yet they occupy many powerful positions. Those positions involve promoting and empowering employees. But how can you empower anyone with a higher education than you when you're feeling so small and unequal? And when you're afraid that they'll take over or might start telling you better ways to do business? Except in the music and movie Industries, anywhere you see a black American in power, you don't see more rising to such powerful positions. There's no cooperation or moral support among them because the whites use them against one another.

Is this what a depressed construction industry needs—social engineering? What's next? Government-mandated social diversity classes at apprenticeship and architectural/engineering schools? Simply put, business owners and managers should continue to hire whomever they deem fit for the position at a wage that is mutually agreed upon.

Five semesters of calculus and differential equations go a long way to overcoming racial, sexual and social discrimination.

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