Discrimination in the workforce

In this essay I will be discussing issues of discrimination especially sex discrimination and how it affects women in an organisation. Case studies will be used to show how discrimination occurs at work and each example will be analysed and evaluated using the consequentialist and non consequentialist approach which includes Kantianism. Immanuel Kant suggested (2001, pg 44, 6) that "treat people as ends, never as means". Discrimination is defined as unfair treatment of an individual or groups of people on the grounds of race, religion, sex, disability or age.

McEwan states (2001, page 199, 8) "discrimination is regarded as unethical because it violates human dignity and autonomy and often leads to the withdrawal of rights that should be available to all members of society". Corporate social responsibility is an important issue within the firm and therefore it is stated that all the stakeholders should be treated ethically in a social responsible manner. Milton Friedman however states (2001, Pg 328, 8) that "the company's sole responsibility is profit maximization"; this can affect the perception of how stakeholders are treated.

Ethics can therefore be an important tool which can determine values, trust and establish codes and standards which deal with right and wrong business behaviour. One form of discrimination that does take place within a firm is sex discrimination this is a serious issue that still takes place in today's society. It is a subject which engages the public's attention and opens ground to many controversies. It is a violation of one of the basic ethical principles.

The key stakeholders in the workforce include employees and employers and potential employees. They have interests and power within the organisation which includes job satisfaction and health and safety practices. However, when an individual is affected by some form of discrimination it can affect the companies' shareholders as their reputation and image can be ruined and their interests include mainly making profits and expressing interest in share prices.

The employee's family and friends may have been greatly affected by this situation too, as the partner may be the 'breadwinner' for the family. The community is also a stakeholder as someone from the public may apply for a job to the company and with a reputation of being discriminative can affect their likely success of a position at that organisation. Customers are also stakeholders who are affected by such issues of discrimination. Sex discrimination against women is a subject that can affect a large number of women within an organisation.

Sex Equality between men and women vary by different individuals and groups. However, there are many different views offered against equality; John Stuart Mill (2001, page 205, 8) 'believes that men and women are the same in all relevant characteristics and capabilities'. This shows that natural capabilities are distributed equally among men and women and that woman don't have specific psychological or biological characteristics that would prevent them from carrying out activities at a higher level.

Mill argued that by treating women equal to men would have considerable positive and beneficial affects for the society. Harriot Taylor (2001, page 205, 8) had radical views that women shouldn't depend on men and that they should have equal opportunities in education and occupation, therefore they can improve their self sufficiency as an individual. The second view about sex equality is how the distinct capabilities and characteristics of men and women are equally valuable.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (2001, page 205, 8) approaches this statement by implying that significant differences may exist however, they reject the claim that women are of less value than associated with men. There are three main issues in sex discrimination against women and they deal with; sexism, sexual abuse and harassment and sexual stereotyping. Sexism is stated as Boehkle (2001, page 208, 8) as "denoting a breach of the humanist conviction that all individuals ought to be recognized as unique personalities".

Sexism is an issue that can affect the career progress of a woman trying to establish themselves on a higher hierarchical position especially having a position at senior management. A recent article in the Observer newspaper titled "Top jobs for the girls? Far too few in our lifetime" (2003, The Observer, 4) states how women occupy fewer seats in boardrooms of large FTSE 100 organisation. This year there has been a slight increase of the number of companies with women on board which rose from 61% to 68% which has been a biggest annual jump seen since 1999.

However, there is noticeable pressure on companies to break this "Glass ceiling" attitude on how women who are prevented from entering this high level position of authority in the private and profit seeking companies. It is a frustrating subject for women as they can see a barrier as an indirect discrimination on the deep-rooted sexist culture that is present in such well known organisations.

The article shows how companies (2003, The Observer, 4) "say that there is not enough talent around" and are unwilling to let them have senior managerial posts instead what they are trying to establish is that by allowing women to enter the barrier will cause a change within the sexist culture already present and therefore there is a reduction in the power of supporters within the company. Marks and Spencer has a third of the total of women present as executives and two non-executives on their board, which is one of the highest numbers of women present.