Why must it be us?

Gordon Johnson feels he has hit the glass ceiling.

I am one of a generation of men who are paying a high price for the sins of our fathers, their fathers and theirs before that. Because of this I am becoming very bitter, with a need to speak out.

I am a baby-boomer child. I was raised by average 1960's parents in a typically normal (western world) middle class suburb. My father went to work, my mother cared for the children and worked from home.

My father worked hard. He had studied hard at university and graduated as an electrical engineer. His work was real. It built valid things for our world. He used to proudly show me electrical supply systems he had designed that were now installed high above the streets.

I learnt that to study well meant that I had choices in life. My work as a man was to be important to me. I would be doing something important in the world. So I studied hard (and enjoyed school immensely), gained my qualifications and went into the world.

My first job was with the Commonwealth Public Service. It was around 1976. I began work as a junior in a large department. For the first two years I worked side by side with many other young people, both male and female.

One morning I woke up to a disturbing fact. Most of the girls that I worked with when I started, had been given acting opportunities in higher level jobs and quite a few were promoted the these levels.

I and other young men were still doing the jobs that we started in. I discussed this with other people in my department and discovered the first effort in the Commonwealth Public Service to correct the gender balance in the department. It meant little to me at the time.

As more acting opportunities came by I made it my business to express my interest in them. But to no avail. Now young women whom I had not known for long were shooting by me to higher levels and I could not join them.

I felt that I would get ahead by doing further studies to better qualify for promotion. For the next two years, I was a part time student, adding to my skills every term. I made a big effort to be promoted during that time. My performance assessments were all highly graded, so I was achieving the requirements of my employer.

In the end, I applied for a position where the selection panel was a little careless in its deliberate "affirmative action" in appointing a female officer to the position.

My qualifications, skills and experience far outweighed hers and I took the case to the Commonwealth Public Service Equal Opportunity Officer. I was immediately promoted to a higher position within another department.

It was then that I realised that five years of my working life were deliberately wasted by bureaucrats trying to correct the gender balance in the workplace. This was just to achieve targets, not because the people appointed were the best for the job, based on merit. Two wrongs don't make a right.

Why did I have to be the one to be discriminated against? Why did the full weight of corrective action have to be borne by men of my age, who had nothing to do with the way society was? What about my opportunity for the future?

I never harboured anti-female feelings in my life (in fact I liked women a lot!). Until then. I saw women enjoying positions of prestige and opportunities for advancement, not based on their skills and hard work, but on gender preference.

That was twenty years ago. I am now working in a State government organisation committed to quality customer service, principles of ethics and equality for all. At least until today.

My job is placed within the CEO's business unit. We have regular meetings to discuss our working weeks and to report on all project work. I am a middle manager supporting my wife who is committed to raising our young children until they are all at school, before returning to the workforce. I have a strong interest in advancement for the good of my family. I thought that I had an even chance to advance myself. Wrong!

Today, the Chief Executive Officer announced that he is determined to promote women in the organisation to corporate executive level within one year, vacancies or not. He felt embarrassed that his organisation (which has a strong technical/engineering core business function) did not have enough female executives.

He pronounced that women could not compete for positions within the organisation on skills and merit alone, and as such they need to be helped with "equal opportunity initiatives" (read: active discrimination against men).

He will not fill advertised vacancies until the employee selection consultancies had provided a field of equal gender numbers, no matter how few fully qualified. "We will search across Australasia if need be, to field acceptable candidates." he said.

To all male staff in my department I say, don't bother applying for any promotions, as you will be only promoted begrudgingly after management fails to place a woman in the job. You are second class citizens paying the high price for a warped and fanatical social conscience.

Men, while you work hard, faithfully wearing an uncomfortable neck tie and drab business suit, you can observe the fortunate gender riding the positive discrimination gravy train to the top. These women will be wearing comfortable colourful clothes, and networking their friends into jobs deliberately excluding you guys.

Here my generation brothers, is your future.

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