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LOOKING ASKANCE - Joseph T. Gonzales (The Freeman) - February 9, 2020 - 12:00am

I’m supposed to be giving a speech in front of high school students this week. Not just any high school --this is an elite all-girls Catholic school.

My insecurities tell me they’ll all be prematurely-jaded teens determined not to be impressed by what an old fogie has to say. They might even say, “okay, boomer,” and I’ll be forced to protest that I’m not a Baby Boomer. Really!

I was invited via my niece, and she tells me her class wants to hear about equality, and what I’ve done or what they can do about promoting equality. That got me to thinking about how to package the complicated concept of equality in a 30-minute presentation.

How does one discuss the concept of equality? When even now, governments, world leaders, and judiciaries can’t seem to get it right?

I’ll probably start by introducing the concept of “equal opportunity.” In my own context, when I entertain applicants for a job, I let everyone apply and judge all of them using the same standards (regardless of how cute the picture is). Gender, school, background, or age doesn’t matter. All I want to look at are the qualifications.

I’m not a quota-driven fan myself, even though I hear and recognize the arguments behind it. I don’t want an exactly half male and half female staff or have 10% LGBTQ/90% heterosexual applicants.

That would be a good segue into discussing how some western governments push to drive up female members in the board of directors of publicly-listed corporations. How female representation in the board is (even in this country) being used to judge companies on their corporate governance efforts.

I wonder how these students will take that discussion point. If I say I’m against such a policy because I feel this may result in giving a less-qualified female a board seat as against a more-qualified male, would I have prematurely shaped their opinion, and made them form a bias (my gosh, the responsibility attached to this half-hour talk).

That same position defines how I view race or ethnicity quotas (but I don’t want to get hate mail because of this column, so I will quickly move on to the next topic).

I was thinking of showing demographics among lawyers in the company. How there are much more females compared to men. Even Law students entering, graduating, or landing in the top ten of their class in today’s universities seem to be steadily dominated by females. I might end up inspiring young females to be feisty advocates (I’m very proud of former female students from the University of San Carlos, like Atty. Cathy Alvarez, who have become fearless human rights lawyers).

Of course, gay lawyers now seem to be more visible in the profession, when there were hardly any around when I was in Law school. We did spread nasty gossip about professors’ preferences then, but we were immature, over-stressed jerks then. Today, there are gay partners in the top law firms. Oh, what a comforting message that would’ve been for gay students, to have seen successful lawyers blazing the trail before them (I wonder if the nuns in the school will let me talk about LGBTQ+ rights. Security might descend upon me if I suddenly utter the “L” word).

That would be a good transition to the Diversity and Inclusion efforts that I’ve seen being pushed by many corporations and institutions in the country. The embassies were active during Pride month, as well as international financial institutions. Even in our organization, we spearheaded a year-long messaging campaign centered around how merit was more important than racial, ethnic, religious, provincial, sexual, or societal identities. In the end, that campaign won an award.

That’s my bare bones outline for the speech. Wish me luck.


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