YMCA, Young Men Can Apply

Group 15

You’re a fit and healthy young guy. The job’s yours!

According to the Office for National Statistics, the percentage of women employed across the whole economy has almost become equal at 46.8% [1]. However, when focussing on sectors such as manual labour, in particular the construction industry, out of the 2.3 billion employed, only 12.4% were women, and 2.6% were woman over the age of 55 [2].This begs the question, is gender and age discrimination still occurring, and is this ever acceptable?

Danger Zone, Men at Work

The primary goal in any business is to thrive economically; this much must match the reality of the selection and recruitment process. When considering a manual labour job, a young, healthy male is what comes to mind.

The longer a new employee must train in their new position, the more money and time is being invested in one person. The faster they reach the required productivity rate, the more the business benefits economically. For example, an older female recruit could require more training, as she might be less physically able and may take longer to retain information.

The business could reduce spending in areas related to health insurance as the young male employee is less likely to get injured at work or take time off due to a work-related accident, or an existing ailment. For example, women are almost 50% more likely to take sick days than men [3]. In this way, the recruitment of the young male employee is also a more informed decision to meet the required safety regulations. Ultimately, economically and logistically, employing a more able employee makes more business sense.

Meeting health and safety regulations in a job is the priority. But are age and gender really the right measure of how safely someone can carry out their work? Aptitude tests are far more suitable and adaptable to the job. It is easy to imagine an older woman being more capable than a younger man, for reasons other than demographics. Other than having had more general experience, there are crucial personality traits to consider. For instance, she may be naturally more diligent than the younger man. She might be in a more settled stage of life, meaning she could be more reliable, whilst the younger man could be looking to move on to a new job quickly. The investment of training time and money is better spent on someone who can commit more to the company. Men are less likely to go to the doctor and less inclined to “access disease screening or seek professional support”, meaning that health issues with female employees are more likely to be caught early, reducing the amount of time off needed [4].

The Measure of Man

A disability cannot stop you from doing a job and in some cases this is just, but sometimes it will be the case that the disability means that you won’t be as capable or adaptable as someone without it. Jobs do change and require workers to adapt and in some cases a disability will stop someone being able to do this.  Let’s look at a bricklayer with arthritis who has joined the company. His first job is a bungalow renovation which he has no problems with as he does not need to climb stairs. However, the next job is three stories up and the worker cannot reach it. It makes practical sense for the company to hire someone fit and healthy so they can adapt to all jobs put before them. Not only this, if the worker pushes themselves to climb the stairs it risks the arthritis getting worse and being further detrimental to the individuals health. Therefore, for ethical reasons to stop worker injury, the company should not hire him.

Making assumptions about applicants is difficult to avoid, as the question of how you define discrimination is a grey area. Information on a CV is very limited; what you gain from meeting face-to-face is a far clearer picture of someone’s character.

For manual labour work, a person’s fitness level is a standard measure, and avoids discrimination against age and gender in a very practical sense. But is discrimination against fitness acceptable? How would a highly qualified amputee applying for a physical job feel if they were turned down after the interview? Whether or not the reason really was that they thought they were incapable dueto being an amputee, the assumption is it was.

Simply because an applicant is a male in his 20s doesn’t equate to suitable physical attributes. A more reliable method of working out the suitability of an applicant would be a series of medical tests, aptitude tests, and interviews to find the best candidates, irrespective of age or sex. Regardless of how a company runs its recruitment process, discrimination of some form, particularly for a role with physical demands, will occur. However, companies also focus on other factors when reviewing job applications, such as experience in the sector, the role being applied for, or evidence of achievements in which a good standard of physical fitness is demonstrated. For example, if a candidate was recently in the military.

Our Standpoint

While the business’ justification would be that they don’t want to risk the person they hire being a detriment to the company due to their gender or disability, the ethical standpoint is that everyone should have the same opportunities. The only factor which leads to the discrimination of some candidates over others is bias assumptions. We have based our standpoint on the following points:


  • The for arguments are making assumptions that gender and disability means someone is less suitable for the job.
  • Gender diversity is important as it bring different way of thinking to an environment, even if there’s a stigma in a specific industry.
  • Deciding that someone is less capable on the basis that they have a disability instead of on their aptitude is unethical and shows unconscious bias.

Therefore, it is our belief that discrimination is not acceptable before interview. However, when the work itself is a health risk to the individual, this is a situation where it could be fair to discriminate.






125 thoughts on “YMCA, Young Men Can Apply

  1. It’s not clear to me what the ethical dilemma is. In your second assignments please make this dilemma clear. I suggest the following question: “Should positive discrimination be employed in the construction industry to address the gender imbalance?”

    You need to employ the four ethical theories.
    For example, in the case For positive discrimination utilitarianism may support it since the majority approve of equality.

  2. Interesting article, however I don’t believe it is possible for a company to interview or correctly assess a person’s capabilities without making assumptions or discriminating in the initial application process. If a company were to gets thousands of applicants it is not efficient or economical for them to go on a case-by-case basis.

  3. I think that some form of interview where all applicants are tested on skills relevant to the job would make it fair. If all applicants were tested then bias could be limited. However this could be tricky if there are too many applicants.

  4. Interesting read, however it could be difficult to interview a large number of candidates to cut out bias. It could be suitable if there were a small number or if another test was put in place prior to interview

  5. As a team leader myself, I found this article somewhat naive. The notion that one MUST hire ‘fairly’ is entirely irresponsible and, quite frankly, regressive. One must feel patronised if they are hired based on their gender in order to meet some pie-in-the-sky quota levels? Political correctness gone mad.

    1. That is a really interesting comment. It’s written by final-year students, with limited industrial experience, and most of us currently applying for jobs so yes – it probably is very naive and quite biased.

      We did look at that argument, and felt it was one of the more important ones to make – that there is only so far you can go with the equality side of HR. It is after all, HUMAN resources, and humans do not make decisions based on an algorithm. We decide if we like someone, and getting on well with a potential employer during a job interview is likely to increase your chance of being offered the job (I suppose that is the idea of a personal interview). But that somehow feels wrong to say, that an interview is essentially a performance with a prize to win at the end.

      How PC is too PC, do you think? Looking at the female to male ratio on my engineering degree, I do sometimes wonder if I had it too easy as a female applicant.

  6. I found this article quite interesting, particularly as I have been listening to Jordan Peterson talk on such issues. His view is that equality of outcome is undesirable (50% female workers in the construction industry), whereas equality of opportunity is virtuous, as it will allow the best people for the job to be chosen, which means work will get done faster and to a better quality. Though perhaps a controversial opinion, I think one must also consider the particular interests that males and females have. I think it is unwise to look at the outcome without considering why it is occurring. Some of it will be bias/prejudice, but I think also the average personality of a man vs a woman will incline them in different directions career-wise.
    Another thing that occurred to me, was that during the summer, I worked at a civil engineering company. And the brick-layers would all have different pay rates, depending presumably on their speed and quality of work. It also contradicted the idea that young men were most desirable, as actually the more experienced workers were payed more, and one could see an increase of rates with time.

  7. This was a really interesting article. I thought the arguments presented were well thought out, but there should be more links made to the ethical theories – for example, the duty of care a company has to its employees may be something to explore? “For example, women are almost 50% more likely to take sick days than men [3]…. Ultimately, economically and logistically, employing a more able employee makes more business sense.” Maybe it would be worth considering the sociological reasoning behind this? It’s very possible that men are not more naturally healthy, but potentially more reluctant to take sick days than women – if this were the case, they may actually be putting themselves and their fellow employees more at risk by failing to control the spread of disease/coming into work with an injury. I disagree with an earlier comment that hiring ‘fairly’ is regressive – if it truly is fair, then people will be hired on their merits alone. The article presents the idea that gender should not be taken into account in the application process, not that it should be used to meet a ‘sky high quota’. There is a very important difference between hiring women due to their competence and hiring them for an agenda, and as a team leader I’d hope you’d be able to make that distinction.

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