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A Comment from “Why We Are Screwed”

(The original post being commented on is at http://pilantsbusinessethics.com/2014/08/28/business-ethics-women/)

Why We Are Screwed

Why We Are Screwed

Hi James,

It’s your friend over at “Why We Are Screwed” again.

I wanted to reply to your posts, “Women Scared of the Big Issues?” and “Business Ethics and Women”. Thank you for posting them. I wanted to share a few personal experiences with you and your readers.

I spent the last number of years working in an area of science/engineering consulting. Most recently, I had to deal with harassment, wherein I was the unfortunate recipient of an inappropriate sexual remark made by a male coworker, who was attempting to mock and disrespect me. I subsequently left this position because of this and many other reasons; either way, I did not want to continue working in that type of environment and I’ve now been unemployed for many months.

Although overt harassment, toxic workplaces, etc. are issues that affect women, (and not just women of course), the less overt male behavior I observed was probably more disappointing because it was more prevalent yet more difficult to identify since it was just under the surface of the company culture, e.g. a bunch of isolated occurrences/behavioral observations. Let me elaborate.

One manager I worked with always talked about sports with the guys around the office common areas, but never engaged with women in the same way because he just didn’t know how. When the annual company golf tournament approached, this manager made sure to “stack” his team with the best male golfers so he would have a shot at winning, which was obviously much more important to him than encouraging teamwork or just having fun. During one golf tournament I attended, this manager made a comment in front of me at a table of mostly men that he was “able to play 27 holes of golf” and something to the effect of, “women could only do 18 holes or less because they’d be too tired to do more than that”. I’m quite sure he was trying to show off in front of his buddies by blurting out his completely irrelevant comment, and was probably attempting to get a dig in at me because he was upset that I was no longer working in his office. I was the only one to speak up (none of the men at the table would bother, I mean, it didn’t affect them, right?), but none of the women said anything either. I replied sarcastically, “Oh, is that it? Women just can’t do it?”. After I made this comment, there was total silence at the table.

This same manager actually asked a female colleague if she was pregnant during an annual performance review. One could hardly think he was effective at his job, and yet, no one would bother to do anything about it, because well, the business was making money, he’d just been with the company for a long time, and, the company was run by men.

I’ve watched women have children and later leave their jobs, or, after being overlooked for promotion, elect to work part time after having children. There is nothing wrong with this option of course, but is working part time a free choice a woman makes, or is it the result of a workplace refusing to accommodate parental needs? It was absolutely true that some managers thought that it was not possible to promote any woman who was aged 25-40ish, if married and childless, into a management role, since she might potentially have a baby (I emphasize the word potentially, not even pregnant). The problem was, no one thought to ask these women whether they would want to consider taking on more responsibility.

On a positive note, I’ve noticed Generation X/Y and onward males often have a better attitude towards women in the workplace, and thus I hope that the culture will slowly change for the better.

And by the way, since I worked mostly with men, I wore pants to work, but I made sure to speak my mind. It was already challenging enough being a woman in the workplace, let alone reminding other men I was a woman by looking more like one. When in Rome…

(From James Pilant – Pilant’s Business Ethics: “Why We Are Screwed” is one of my favorite web sites to visit and it features a wise and witty author. Please visit it often.)

Public Funding and Science

Public Funding and Science

Public Funding and Science

Public Funding and Science

Today, the good author at “Why We Are Screwed,” commented on my post http://southwerk.com/2014/05/27/do-the-american-people-need-to-become-re-introduced-to-science/

(This comment appeared on the mirror site, https://southwerk.wordpress.com.)

Here is his comment in full. I totally approve.

James Pilant


Yes! I am sure I sound like a broken record – but once again, public funding for science needs to be increased, prospective science/engineering PhD students need to be told that they are unlikely to land assistant professor positions upon study completion, and working conditions for PhDs also need to improve drastically. Universities need to cut the administrative fat, cease functioning like corporation and put the focus on the purpose of university; getting research and teaching done.

I will also argue that the United States should improve its immigration policies and procedures to make it easier to attract and retain talented foreign scientists. Many are unhappy with the American immigration and education system, which does not make it easy for PhDs/post-docs to balance their professional and personal lives.

Canada, which is a resource rich country, needs to spend a larger percentage of its GDP on more scientific research and development, to align itself with the spending of other wealthy countries. The current and recent governments have had dismal records in this regard.

Finally, in Canada/US there are too many PhD scientists working on either post-doctoral salaries — or not in their fields at all.

If we continue down this path there will be fewer and fewer good scientists to learn from – and we will continue to carry out research which is only in the interest of corporations and not the public good.

The web site, Why We Are Screwed is here. Please go and visit. Sign up as a follower and get e-mail updates!

On The Same Subject



My response to Andi’s Questions

Andi concluded his comments on my last post by asking me these questions, which I will now try to answer.

Whether protests are morally right or wrong, is difficult. What do you think about the following questions?:

Can a protest really influence decisions that there are fair outcomes for everybody? Or is it only a way to highlight unfair procedures?

I have no utopian vision of a world where everyone has a just outcome. It’s not going to happen. Life is messy and many things unfair. However, governments and economies are man made creations and there is no natural law governing them only numerical limitations, so if outcomes are produced by men those outcomes can be changed by men.

Income inequality only reached this level over many years and as a result of many changes both international and purely domestic. So, what can be changed in one direction can be moved into another.

Change is possible.

Now, can the protestors generate any change in the philosophy of the marketplace. Yes,

Over the last 150 years two basic philosophies have run through American Business. The first set is based on Christianity. It’s most pure economic form is the Social Gospel. This continues to the modern day with parallel visions like Marxism which is essentially an economic religion.

The second set is Social Darwinism. Herbert Spencer will be its prophet and it may very well have culminated philosophically with Milton Friedman. Edmund Spencer took the survival of the fittest concept from Darwin. Milton Friedman added Darwin’s concept of natural selection, that is, the process of evolution must not be interfered with to favor the weak.

These have fluctuated in power and influence. Currently, the debate leans very heavily in the direction of free market fundamentalism, the Chicago School of Economics.

What effect can the Wall Street Protests have?

First, they shift the discussion. For most of the previous year, the public was assailed with tales of the dangers of deficit spending, a discussion focus of the American beltway elites but a subject with precious little importance to the great mass of Americans.

Second, it makes the wealthy and the beltway elites uncomfortable. The disdain and over reactions from the right wing media are palpable. You have to understand that in this country, the wealthy are insulated from virtually any criticism. Over the last forty years wealth has become a sign of virtue in many circles. They live in world where the media idealizes them, where the government is an ally which takes their needs seriously and where the lower classes are discussed as overpaid, lazy, fat and lacking initiative. To hear a contrary dialogue is to them astonishing. Let them be astonished.

Third, and most critical, the movement is laying the groundwork for groups of citizens to follow, a template for action. This means that in the future when there is a policy placed before the public, these groups spawned by this political action will be able to present alternatives or start initiatives of their own. Policy battles that have been one-sides will become disputes where more than one point of view is heard.

James Pilant

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Andi comments on the previous post – The 99 Percenters – Why is New York the Center of their Protests?

This is a comment on a previous post –  The 99 Percenters – Why is New York the Center of their Protests?

(The article was actually motivated by one of my reader’s comments on Facebook and while I hope there are elements of a call for economic justice implied in it, I didn’t have any ethical argument except for inequality itself – James Pilant)

Here’s Andi’s response to the post –

While reading this article, I wondered about the ethics and what the author wanted us to tell. Is it the question whether it is morally right that people do the protests in NY or is it the question if it’s ethically that 1 percent of the population in NY owns about 44 percent of all income?! Or is it the more general question whether it is ethically to do protests in the street?

To answer this question it is necessary to know the definition of an ethical decision. A decision is ethically if it affects others, has alternative courses of action and is perceived as ethically relevant by one or more parties.
By comparing the questions with the definition, it becomes clear that the second question cannot be discussed under ethical terms. Only the questions whether it is ethically to to protests or to do them in NY, has alternative courses of actions.
Therefore I focus on protests and try to state my opinion about it.

To answer the question with the postmodern ethical theory (= decision is morally right if the person follows his emotions in a situation), I would say that doing protests to point to abuses is morally okay because it is a good medium to raise high attention in the press and in tv newscasts. But that’s only half of the story. To answer this question in a more rational view, the combination of postmodern ethical theories and ethics of rights and justice is needed. Here the question of fair procedures or fair outcomes comes up.

Whether protests are morally right or wrong, is difficult. What do you think about the following questions?:

Can a protest really influence decisions that there are fair outcomes for everybody? Or is it only a way to highlight unfair procedures?

My great thanks to Andi for taking the time to comment and not just to comment but to comment with intelligence and insight. I want Andi to know that author identification is up to the contributor. If you want to be clearly identified with e-mail, blog links, etc.., you have only to ask and I will modify the posting.


James Pilant

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Steven Mintz, the Ethics Sage Comments my post on the Power Elites.

This is from January 7th and I did not (to my regret) publish the comment as a post. It was a thoroughly excellent comment and I am pleased to post it now. (The original posting can be found here.)

Here are the comments of the Ethics Sage

James, I agree with your sentiments. The divide between rich and poor with a growing middle class is expanding rapidly. I wouldn’t classify all billionaires as greedy. The pursuit of self-interest is always a factor and often at the cost of others as too often occurs in corporations. There are, however, a few good people that either use their money to better society, improve our educational system, help those who can’t help themselves, and even fight world hunger and illiteracy. We know of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates in the business world who have started foundations for these purposes. They seem to be trying to do the right thing. The jury is still out on Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, who has pledged to donate a significant amount of his money. Oprah Winfrey comes to mind and her charitable efforts as well as using personal gravitas to improve conditions around the world. Perhaps we can include someone like Angelina Jolie who seems genuinely concerned about the unfortunate circumstances of way too many people in other countries. That said, you are absolutely right that the fabric of our nation has changed and not for the better. The middle class get squeezed more and more. The sad part is nothing has be done, even with the financial crisis, to address these issues and I fear nothing will be done because of the influence and desire of those with the billions to continue the trend and the willingness of our Congressional leaders, many of whom are already wealthy (or hope to be so after leaving office)to support the obsessively rich because they hope to join their ranks some day.

The Ethics Sage latest post can be found here.

James Pilant

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Andrew Gates Add his Thoughts to – “Andi Comments on the Post – Business Ethics: Should a Company Recover Metal from Cremated Human Remains?”

Andrew Gates often comments on various posts of mine. Here he adds his support to Andi’s earlier thoughts in his own sometimes satirical way.

“I would have to agree with Andi on this one. A dead person no longer needs the metals in their body. If you believe in an afterlife and souls, then you probably believe that the soul leaves the body after death and goes to party it up in heaven. Thereby leaving the body as nothing but a rotting bit of flesh. I say get what you can out of it. If you dont believe in those notions of the afterlife, then you probably believe that after death, conscious existance ceases. In that case, you wont miss the metals in your body either. If I were to decide cremation (im donating my body, kinda morbid to think about, but still), then I would want as much good to come from my body as it could yield. As it sits now, though, donating my body to be used for search and rescue training seems like the most utilitarian use of my mass of rotting flesh after my death.”

My thanks to Andrew for adding to the post and the discussion thereof!

James Pilant

P.S. As for my own thoughts, they are quite similar to my commentators. I was more fascinated by the novelty of it and the fact that what sounded more than a little hare-brained turned out to be quite profitable.

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Andi Comments on the Post – Business Ethics: Should a Company Recover Metal from Cremated Human Remains?

Andi Comments on the Post – Business Ethics: Should a Company Recover Metal from Cremated Human Remains?

This is from Andi in Sweden. It is a thoroughly intelligent and perceptive comment. I hope the author choses to return often.

The answer to this question is a very ethical one. On the one hand even dead people have dignity and nobody should harm this dignity. But on the other hand the metal would be lost if no one “recycles” it. In the view of sustainability and especially the environmental view, everyone should try to effectively manage physical resources and try to save resources. Metal is a resource like oil and water and if we all waste these resources then they will be exhausted and gone forever.
I think by stating this opinion I focus on the utilitarianism theory which states that a decision is morally right, if it provides the greatest amount of benefit for the greatest amount of people. In this case the whole society profits from not wasting resources.

(To Andie, the author of this comment – if you have a web site, send me the link and I’ll give you a write up. Also, if you want your name published here in full. I will happily put that data in. JP)

James Pilant

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Andrew Comments on the Post – The TARP Bank Bailout Saved Huge Financial Institutions But the Benefits Failed to Trickle Down to Most Americans

Andrew comments on my previous post – The TARP Bank Bailout Saved Huge Financial Institutions But the Benefits Failed to Trickle Down to Most Americans.

Andrew comments with some regularlity on my posts. Here are his latest thoughts –

You mean trickle down economics doesnt actually work!?  Who would’ve thought it!!!!????  That type of economic mechanism only works when the business leaders allow it to happen.  In this case, greed led these executives to run their companies into the ground.  In response, the government bailed them out with a program that could only be effective if they behaved unselfishly and without greed.  Hmm…

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Joni Green Comments on "Community Improvement District Lets Business Impose Sales Tax"

I received a wonderful comment on a previous blog post, Community Improvement District Lets Business Impose Sales Tax for Improvements.

Joni Green sent this comment –

A couple of friends visited a new restaurant located near Central and Oliver. Their ticket reflected an additional “CID” tax of 1%. When they questioned it the server had no explanation. The manager/owner came over and told them is was a “development tax” that helps develop and improve the area, he said the the other restaurants near there were also charging the tax. However, when we checked with them they did not know anything about it. I checked with the State of Kansas Division of Taxation/Revenue and they told me they had not heard of this, but if they were charging an additional tax % it shouldn’t be called out separately, but should be included in their original tax rate. They also told me that we could look up their tax rate by address on the Kansas website. We looked up their address and it said their tax rate was the normal 7.3%. How do we know if a business is legitimately charging a CID tax? And I agree, it’s a weird feeling to pay more tax at one place opposed to another. Doesn’t seem like “good” business to me :/

It would appear as with so many other things, a business can often improve its profits by unethical means. I’m sorry the restaurant treats its customers this way but very pleased that Ms. Green took the time to let me know what had happened.

James Pilant

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Dan Bodine Comments on My Last Post

Dan Bodine was kind enough to comment on my travails at moving to a new site. Here’s what he has to say –

Little confused over the “mechanics” of this and why you’re worried so much. Really enjoy you’re content, by the way. But I’m in the early design stage of doing something similar. Only instead of moving my blog, I’m continuing it and starting a new blog. The new blog will be just or political comment, which I feel is inappropriate for my present news and features blog. And of course that means moving some of my old stories and re-posting them in the new blog’s morgue. Is what you’re doing radically different than this? And I’m just an old fogey who still ain’t gotta clue as to how all these website really works?

I’m building a site with at least two sliders, a video feed and about three news feed with probably a half dozen RSS feeds from individual blogs I find important. I’m reading and watching videos from You-Tube on blogging. I’m fifty-five and this stuff does not come as easy as it does to the young.

I’ve been blogging off and on for the past three or four years. This new blog will encapsulate all the lessons I’ve learned in that time.

This is going to be combination of good content, powerful imaging, video content and heavy, heavy search engine optimization.

James Pilant

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