Equality in Canada

<Sarcasm>

The Hack’s anonymous source claims that there must be a discriminatory policy in Manitoba since 14 out of 20 judges appointed by Gary Doer have been women.  Says the Hack: “the percentage (70%) of female jurists appointed doesn’t appear to be statistically consistent, which means that it was likely a policy decision to purposely appoint more women to the bench. ” To which he adds: “Doesn’t it merit some discussion as to whether it is a worthwhile policy for the government to pursue?”

In a totally unrelated event, 14 out of 18 new senators are men (77.8%) . Let me try! Let me try! “The percentage (78%) of female jurists male senators appointed doesn’t appear to be statistically consistent, which means that it was likely a policy decision to purposely appoint more women men to the bench senate. Doesn’t it merit some discussion as to whether it is a worthwhile policy for the government to pursue?”

 </Sarcasm>

<Seriousness>

Is it not possible that in both cases Doer and Harper appointed people they thought we’re qualified?

</Seriousness?>

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6 responses to “Equality in Canada

  1. I also forgot that Harper has previously appointed only one other non-elected senator, M. Fortier. That’s 15 out of 19! Look out Gary Doer!

  2. Maybe, before you get all sarcastic, you should look at the population of judges in the province and the percentage of those who are female. You might find that most are male, which makes it very unlikely from a statistical point of view that Doer was simply appointing the most qualified people.

    Since senators can be drawn from different fields the same comparison is a little tricky, but typically they are politicians, and typically the majority of elected politicians are male, therefore it is more likely that Harper was selecting people based on qualifications rather than gender.

  3. Just did a quick Google search. “In 2002/2003, women made up 28 per cent of the court”. Therefore, based on past trends you would expect 1 in 3 or 4 appointed judges to be female. Maybe men stopped going to law school in the late 90s. Or maybe Doer is making an effort to equalize gender representation on the bench. I think the later is more likely. But is that a good thing or a bad thing? Hack’s question is a fair one: should we be concerned about gender or should we appoint solely on the basis of qualifications?

  4. Solely on the basis of qualifications in any and all situations. If that results in solely male or female candidates, so be it – being qualified, they’ll show far less bias than an unqualified candidate regardless of gender. Qualifications mean that they’re able to set bias aside for the most part and think with their heads rather than emotions.

  5. Well, cherenkov, there are numerous responses to your historic numbers.

    (1) The number of women qualified to be appointed 25 years ago was different than it is today. So, the historic bias towards men should statistically be going down if there are equally as many qualified men as women.

    (2) The Hack’s source says that 60% of elligible candidates are men. So, we should be 95% confident that there should be between 4 and 12 (rounding) women appointed. But, what if the 60% number is off? Since we can suspect that the current number of lawyers is demographically skewed to have more men at older ages and more women at younger ages – then, the number of candidates who are both qualified and not too old could be closer to 50%. If so, then the 95% confidence interval would include 14 women appointees. In other words, we cannot be certain of gender bias in that case.

    (3) My argument is that Harper is not selecting people based on gender. But, the numbers are even more skewed than Doer’s, especially considering who is qualified to be a Senator.

    (4) Finally, it is impossible for me to prove absense of bias. The burden of proof is on the accusers. So, find evidence for me of a woman who was improperly appointed over a better qualified man (who also wanted the job) and then show me the numbers for how many men and how many women were offered the jobs and you have proven your case.

    So far, I do not see enough evidence.

  6. If Doer is appointing in an effort to equalize gender representation on the bench (and, so far, that he is remains only speculation), the issue need not be reduced to merit vs. equality, as the debate is often framed.

    It’s not as if every single candidate in the province can be ranked in a perfectly linear fashion from first to nth place. This would assume a person’s qualifications can somehow be reduced to a single numeric scale upon which all candidates can be placed. In reality, different candidates bring different combinations of strengths and weaknesses and personalities to the job they do. One combination of these doesn’t always translate simplistically into “more qualified” or “less qualified.”

    Thus, choosing candidates is more often about selecting from a crop of highly qualified folks than about running a ranking exercise to find the top one. Of course, where patterns in hiring/appointing processes emerge, they may be the result of deliberate efforts (e.g., to increase equity or legitimacy) or of unintended consequences — for example, are there particular strengths or qualities being sought that the female candidates happen to have, perhaps as a result of their areas of focus or types of practice?

    These are definitely questions worth asking and worth exploring because they speak to the values that in a sense are being institutionalized through appointment. That said, I think donald street makes a very valid point in suggesting that (1) we be cautious before reading into any observed patterns that unqualified candidates are being appointed ahead of qualified ones; and (2) we be just as diligent in questioning series of male appointments if we’re going to question series of female appointments.

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