We are not often walloped over the head with examples of bias. Over the last several decades public exposure to bias has evolved from the overt Alf Garnet* "in your face" approach to relatively subtle and, at times almost undetectable acts or statements which collectively serve the same end: "Bias" as a tendency towards an outcome rather than absolute discrimination. Because of its normally muted tone it can be startling when one suddenly encounters an unequivocal lump of discrimination so outmoded and unusual as to be the equivalent of seeing a horse and cart on the high street.
While queuing for my lunch today I was looking at linked in on my phone and saw an advert for a job posted by a reputable company that pulled me up short. The advert extolled free bacon sarnies as the principal benefit of joining this particular company in the text at the top of the advert, accompanied by a picture of a tasty looking bacon sandwich. This benefit was repeated again in the body of the text as one of the main reasons to join the company. Now I love a bacon sarnie (with brown sauce of course - I am not one of those ketchup perverts) but as a means of promoting a job it is pretty exclusionary or, to put it another way it is a fairly good way to reduce the number of Jewish or Muslim applicants!
I don't think this was even remotely intentional – in fact I think that bias was so far away from the author's thoughts that they did not think at all. In between my purchase of my lunch and returning to the office the advert disappeared. Because I am certain that this was unintentional I have not linked to the company concerned.
The absence of adverts saying "man wanted for..." Or "XXXXXX need not apply" does mean that we have moved on and grown up a bit. The jolt this ad gave me was, in a way, a good thing – the quiet and muted form of bias that has allowed a significant disparity in income and opportunity for large sections of society is pervasive and arguably no less powerful that the overt bias of the early 20th century.
The silly excuses that once kept women out of the legal profession are now relics and remarkable because of their absurdity. Let's hope that the same becomes true of all forms of bias very soon.
*For everyone under 40: "Alf" Garnett is a fictional character from the British sitcom Till Death Us Do Part from the 1970's who was known for outrageously racist comments which were (supposedly) themselves a parody of racism!
#OnTheRoll in the Supreme Court4th August, 2017 The First 100 Years #OnTheRoll artefact is now on display at the Supreme Court. The limited edition toilet roll, one of only 100 in the world, tells of how law firms, chambers and other legal institutions had provided the lack of women's lavatories as a reason for not promoting women to senior positions within their organisations.