Equal Opportunity – Access or Outcomes

Say No More

Say No More (Photo credit: Feggy Art)

“This crap has got to stop.”

“Ok, Avi, fill me in. What has to stop?”

Avi slid in the opposite side of the picnic table, obstructing Bevin’s view of the band busy performing a decent rendition of Ventura Highway.

“I am tired of all the crap at work. I am underpaid, I work harder than everyone else and not only does it not get noticed; now they filled Billy’s position with a new woman. So I got passed over when everyone knows I should have gotten the job. Billy said I was next in line. And everyone knows the only reason this new lady got the job is she is Spanish.”

“Uh, I think you probably mean Hispanic,” Bevin replied.

“Whatever,” sighed Avi, waving a half empty mug.

“Look,” Bevin stated, “not to be a killjoy, because I love a good complaint as much as the next person, but why would you even say that? And what makes you say you are underpaid? I thought you said Billy gave you a little extra last review to bring you in line?”

“First of all, why else would they bring in someone from the outside unless they needed to fill a quota. You know that is how all the hiring at the clinic is now. And yes, Billy did give me more last year, but I still don’t make nearly enough to live on. And you know what? Now I am going to have to do double the work because my new boss is clueless. She not only doesn’t know how to do anything, including paperwork for cases, she doesn’t think it’s her job either.”

This would have been a good time to take a stroll around the festival and just let it drop. But Bevin didn’t. “Ok Avi. I am not going to touch the whole thing with whether your new boss is qualified or not. But please tell me we aren’t going back down the avenue of ‘social workers are all underpaid’ again? I thought we killed that horse already.”

“Easy for you to say,” retorted Avi, hackles rising. “You have a good paying job that you like. I work just as hard and for what? Do you know that coal miners can make $80,000 to $90,000 a year and they don’t even need a degree?! For crying out loud, I put in time to get the education that everyone talks about and tell me how that paid off?”

“Then go get a job as a coal miner,” Bevin shouted back! “Let me tell you they couldn’t pay me $180,000 to go down in a mine everyday. You like it so much, go get a job as a miner then!”
“That is not the point. The point,” Avi clarified, “ is that this is just the kind of wage inequality that we need to fix. We have to get the pay in this country evened out. And now people…”
“Wait a minute,” Bevin cut in, tone incredulous. “Wait. Are you telling me you want miners to make less money? Are you kidding me?”

“Noooo,” Avi replied condescendingly. “I don’t want miners to make less; I think everyone should be able to make more. Some pay is too high for sure, but they could take some of that and spread it around so that everyone gets to make a little more and people aren’t pigeonholed by their occupation and underpaid for doing just as much work as someone else. That is what equal opportunity is all about.”
“That is definitely not what equal opportunity is all about. Ari, what you are talking about is equal results!  That is completely different.  Equal opportunity is all about ensuring that everyone has the same chance, the same access to the opportunities. Not that we all get the same compensation in the end.”

“Well we all know that the access isn’t equal.  If you have the money you get into the right schools, and coming from certain schools gives you a better chance for the kind of job like what you have,” Avi concluded. “And now I am stuck with the degree I have, so I am stuck with the job I have.”

“What?  First of all, I paid my way through school.  I took out loans and worked the whole time I went to school, and yes my parents sent me a couple bucks when they could help, but you know my parents didn’t have two pennies to rub together.  And you could have chosen this same path, but you have never been even a little bit interested in business and you hate numbers.  You have said before that you would hate my job,” Bevin exclaimed in frustration. “And you could go back to school, or switch careers.  Just because you have a Psych degree, doesn’t mean you have to be a social worker.  That was your choice.  Heck, I had a CFO that had an education degree at one point!”

“This isn’t about you Bevin.  It doesn’t always have to be about you.  Yes, you did it ‘right’ and all.  But you keep avoiding the point.  Yes, you might have been able to make the system work for you, but it doesn’t work for everyone and that is what is important.  That is what we have to change to give everyone an equal starting point; an equal shot.”

“That is hogwash, Avi, and you know it!  This is the only country in the world where it doesn’t matter what race you are, what your last name is, where you are from – we all have a chance to make it.  Yes, there are advantages in coming from a wealthy family or attending different schools, but look at the people every year who come from different places around the world for their shot, their opportunity and that make it …”

“Oh come on and cut the crap”, retorted Avi! “You are starting to sound like one of ‘them’.  You know the system is broken and we are finally in a position to do something about it.  We have a President who wants to make it better and all he is asking that everyone have a fair shot and those of you that have more and can afford it, share a little more.  And you bet your sweet bottom, I am going to do something about it, too.”

“That’s really enough. You had the same chances I did.  If you want a job making $90,000 a year, then find out what it takes to get one and go do it, but don’t complain to me.  And if you think you are being treated unfairly at work then you have some choices to make – you can suck it up and deal with it, you can work to try to change it, or you can go somewhere else – this is a free country.  No one is stopping you. You have equal access to the opportunity. But don’t demand equal results – you have to do your part.”

I could continue as the conversation falls apart, but I think we all have a good idea how the conversation ends. Is Avi right or is Bevin right?  Should it be equal access to opportunity?  Or should it be equal outcomes for all?

So we have a good idea how the conversation ends, but not the story.  The names have been changed to protect the innocent here and the profanity removed from the conversation to enhance the civility. Click on “comment” and let me know your thoughts and let us know at the beginning of your comment – Equal Access or Equal Outcomes.

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