The Wimbledon Champion and the Doctor

Sheila Fahy

The problem with stereotypes about people is that the preconceived notions upon which they are based may inform important decision-making. Yes, there may be an element of “truth” in the assumption that physical and mental ability deteriorates with age, or women make the best carers, or doctors (of the time-travelling variety) are men. But that is not the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Assumptions about how a person might perform according to their gender, age, race, disability or any protected characteristic will narrow the pool of talent in terms of employment decisions, and do a disservice to potential candidates and your workforce.

Imagine Mr Roger Federer applying to you for a job as a tennis player. Without a doubt, he has a great track record but, at 35, is he past it? All the statistics tell you that nobody of his age has become a Wimbledon Champion, and Venus Williams’ attempt at 37 is testament that tennis is a young person’s sport. Would you pass on Roger Federer?

Let’s start again and leave the stereotypes behind. Only bring into the decision-making those elements that are relevant to the job. Roger looks like a good candidate for the position of tennis player: he has a good track record; he has had a dry period since his Wimbledon win in 2012 but he also took time out for injury, recalibration, and his young family, showing his balanced approach to work and life. He demonstrated that he can win again at the Australian Open this year. In conclusion, he looks like a solid bet to me.

It’s not rocket science, but it is easy/lazy/comfortable/foolish to use assumptions or steretypes rather than objective criteria to reach a decision.

And don’t get me started on the earth-shattering news that the Doctor is a woman! I know that the Doctor has been a man for more than 54 years, and that change is not easy. But 45.5% of those who qualify as a doctor each year in this country are women. Surely it was only a matter of time before it was a woman who was flying the tardis. It will be interesting to see what approach she takes to the likes of the Darleks, the Cybermen and the Silence, and whether she can negotiate and collaborate to come up with something other than war. I am also very keen to learn whether she is being paid the same as the previous incumbent or whether there’s a gender pay gap.

Perhaps the stereotypes should be the new enemy for the time-travelling Doctor.

Comments published on Employment Talk do not necessarily reflect the views of Allen & Overy.

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