Tariffs, Equality, and Quotas: A Place For Them In IT?
Tariffs, Equality, and Quotas: A Place For Them In IT?
A Zone Leader examines some hot topics being discussed, wondering if they have a place in Information Technology.
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When I was in college, I recall an assignment where the topic was "Equality in the Workplace." As a student, it was noted that consideration of setting quotas should be included in the resulting work that was submitted.
This assignment stuck with me all these years later, since I was attending a private university in the Midwest where approximately 98% of the student population were white Americans. (Note, I had to do some research in order to figure out the most politically correct way to refer to people like me.) What made it even more interesting is that the majority of those attending this university came from upper-middle class status or above. Perhaps the female professor knew what she was doing giving this assignment early in our college life.
What made things a little different for me, was that I had transferred from a popular music college in Boston (Massachusetts) the semester before taking this course. By contrast, living in the historic Back Bay area — among musicians from all around the world — gave me a strong understanding of diversity and the cosmopolitan realities this world has to offer. This chapter of my life certainly helped with my assignment.
Liberal vs. Conservative
Most believe Winston Churchill offered this quote:
"If you are not a liberal at 25, you have no heart. If you are not a conservative at 35, you have no brain."
Unfortunately, no evidence has been shown where Churchill ever made this statement. However, an 1875 French publication noted the following statement as the Burke Paradox:
“He who is not a républicain at twenty compels one to doubt the generosity of his heart; but he who, after thirty, persists, compels one to doubt the soundness of his mind.”
Back to the Assignment
While my political views have never been something I consider "strong," I would admit that I wore my heart on my sleeve back in college far more often than I do today. Perhaps there is something to be said about our views on certain topics as we navigate through life.
The assignment I submitted was to support equality in the workplace — to even back the idea of utilizing quotas as a tool to promote this idea. At the time, I felt like fresh views and opinions could supplement established patterns and standards — yielding a stronger (or better) end-result in the workplace. I felt good about my submission and the ensuing grade I received.
I remember learning about tariffs in my primary school years. The end result that has remained inside my brain was that tariffs tend to be a bad idea at a macro level — and are focused on micro levels of satisfaction. Perhaps there is a demand for something that is already being produced in a given country. That country will want to maximize the throughput of the local product and can go as far as taxing (or applying a tariff) on the similar product entering from another origin. In doing so, the party facing the tariff will likely increase their price and the tariff applier will hope the consumer will no longer want the product and choose the non-tariffed (local) product.
As an example, in order to attract consumers to sport or luxury automobiles made in their current country, all foreign sport and luxury vehicles will be imposed a tariff as part of their entry into the destined country. While the tariff is intended to help boost the economy of the country, it also has a negative impact on the rest of countries who want to market to these same consumers.
Good for the local economy (micro-focused), bad for the world economy (macro-focused).
Does Any of This Work in IT?
I wondered if tariffs, equality in the workplace or quotas have a fit in Information Technology (IT).
Tariffs in IT
Taking on the concept of tariffs first. What if some municipality decided they wanted to focus on filling IT positions with their own, local resources? That, if a corporation utilitizes IT resources from another area, they would be required to pay a tariff for every hour each resource is providing services? This could even go beyond off-shore and near-shore services — including usage of staff from some other municipality, state or county.
Take Silicon Valley as an example, where the cost of living is one of the highest in the country. It is possible to find qualified staff in other regions of the country that could be well-paid by the California-based company — but at a fraction of the pay required for a local resource. So instead of paying an engineer a base salary of $300,000/year, someone from another region would be pleased to do the job for $200,000. With just a staff of 25, that savings could yield a savings in base salary of $2.5 million a year.
With an imposed tariff of 35%, the California-based company would be required to pay an additional $75,000 per employee — cutting their overall savings down to $625,000. The hope would be that the challenges with a fully-remote workforce would not justify the small amount of savings and opt to employ resources local to Silicon Valley instead.
Of course, in this scenario, the potential for a company to consider relocation to a non-tariffed municipality is a high probability.
Equality & Quotas in IT
The rationale behind the thoughts of my college assignment should be kept in context. At the time, there was no internet communications. In fact, 24-hour cable news programming was in its infancy and reading a print-based daily publication was still commonplace. The world was a larger and more mysterious place. It was also a world that had continued to thrive on a baseline of standards and principles.
My college mind was challenging corporations to think outside the box. One way to make this happen would be to employ a new demographic in leadership roles. Simply replace the white American workforce with a more diverse group - including more women in leadership roles.
Today, Internet connectivity has succeeded in making the world a smaller and less mysterious place. Combine that with an expected reality that "change is the only constant" is achieving the core reason why I submitted my stance in the assignment during my college years. As a result, my views have changed in this regard — largely because of the vast array of available sources aimed at keeping leadership and direction fresh and challenged.
To state that a given percentage of staffing must consist of some group of individuals will have an impact on the overall performance that a given team can provide — especially when compared to results of a team which does not have such quotas applied. In fact, taking this approach could be construed as a violation in 1964 Civil Rights Act - Title VII. While the act was written to prohibit employment discrimination, it also protects from the enforcement of quotas.
Imagine having to tell a candidate that they were a perfect candidate for the job, but cannot be offered a job due to established quotas. That is like saying, "We are going to hire someone less qualified because we already have too many people of your race, sex, whatever."
I wasn't the best student of history in my early years of life. Now, I truly see the benefit of understanding history — if nothing else, to avoid relearning lessons from prior events. I wanted to see if the use of tariffs, equality and quotas would have a benefit in IT so that I could understand if these aspects should be the reality in our larger, macro-based world.
Since the recessions that happened in the early 2000s, I have become more in tune with the larger world economy, gaining an understanding of the impact various cause/effect relationships can have on the global economy. I believe it is important to find the best staffing for any given role in order to keep teams functioning as strongly as possible. At the same time, I believe that basic economic principals will always guide every economy and employment of tariffs only challenges us as a whole on a macro level.
Have a really great day!
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