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Positive discrimination

February 12 2014 , Written by Wing-Fai Thi

The French government is currently debating about introducing positive discrimination (a great oxymoron and also- called affirmative action) measures in France. Like most other Western European countries, France has a sizeable fraction of his population from the so-called visible minorities. Discrimination and how to fight against it is a subject close to my heart.

One of the main opinion differences between France and other countries like the USA or Great Britain is the notion of integration. The idyllic idea that everyone can be part of the French Republic with common values differs from the view that a country is formed from several populations that can share different values.  

I am annoyed by all kind of discriminations as part myself of a minority.  For me positive discrimination may be part of a global solution but alone it is certainly not enough.

Women in senior academic positions in general and in Astronomy in particular are a clear case of discrimination.

One of the main issues is the family life. As an academic I can very well take time off to take care of children. Unlike maybe many of my colleagues, I even feel that I have contributed enough to science and happy to step down. There are schemes in France to work less and share the load of raising a child in the Higher Education.

What should be adopted as the same time than positive discrimination laws are working laws that make for example compulsory parental leaves for both parents without any drawback to the career of both the man and the woman in the private sector as well?

In France, people are thinking about the children presence time at school. In the German system the children interest is paramount and the choice was made to have more time for them to develop non-scholarly skills. In France, the number of class hours is high. In practice many working parents can still manage to work and pick up the children after their work. I grew up in such system where the school provides extra activities after the normal hours (4h30 pm).  I appreciate that the German system "forces" one of the parents (unfortunately mostly the mother) to stay at home. Can we one day conciliate the interest of the children and that of women and their career? I think this is not only the role of governments but also of the men in general.

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