Lesson 2 - L&S, Functions, Pronunciation - DIFFICULTIES

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Host: Welcome to our programme this evening. Tonight our topic will be racial discrimination in European companies. As we know, there are some laws specifying the make-up of an international company, however, is everyone equal in following their career ladder to the top? To answer this question, we’ve invited to the studio two journalists from the Newsweek magazine : John Smith and Melinda Grace. They have carried out research on discriminatory policies in European companies.

Host: Melinda, Why did you decide to look into the problem of racial discrimination?

Melinda: Good evening. We wanted to locate the glass ceiling, to see just how high minorities have reached in the corporate world. Our primary goal was to see how much progress had been done as for racial issues. To our surprise, our research provoked in some cases an outpouring of anger and denial that was perhaps more revealing. To our eyes, this backlash suggested the European corporate culture is still far more uptight and confused about race than it cares to admit.

Host: What do you mean by that? The business people were afraid to speak?

John: Er, you may put it this way. The problem is that most European firms don’t track minority hiring figures at all. Unlike in the USA, there are no data records. What’s more, some of the people we spoke with are even confused or angered that anyone would even raise the issue. “ What a racist thing to ask!” one executive at a Frankfurt bank fumed. Another example: When asked about a minority board member, a spokesman for a German chemicals company recalled: “We had a Belgian once.” A press officer at a Swiss pharmaceuticals company noted that “Swiss are a minority here,” at the same time pointing at a board stocked with members from England, Germany, Austria and America.

Host: So people show a total misunderstanding of the problem.

Melinda: There were some curious misunderstandings. A white spokesman for a French telecom firm offered himself up as “a useful case in point – part Hungarian, part German, British- passport holder, living and working in France!” His company, he concluded, “is a pretty colourful place.”

John: In many countries, still, executives are tonged-tied by both law and national history, uncomfortable discussing race, they don’t count employees by race.

Host: Right. What were the questions that you asked them?

John: Our basic question seemed only statistical: How many minorities do you employ at the levels - CEO, board member, top executive (that is a president, division board) or senior manager (as the companies define)?

Host: Excuse me, but what is your definition of a minority?
Melinda: We define minorities as people of non-European origin, this definition would include everyone from Asians or West Indians in Britain to Turks in Germany.

Host: And, what did you elicit?

John: Of the top 100 companies in Europe, 69 either did not respond to our survey or could not because they did not track issues of race in the workplace. Even to raise the issue struck many as backward. “It’s a question that doesn’t fit our times” one press officer snapped.

Melinda: With all respect, these questions are timely, fitting and impossible for Europe to ignore much longer. Of course, the minority population in Europe is not as large as in the United States, so Europe has not yet been forced to confront issues of race in the workplace as directly.

John: In Europe, we could not find one top company with a minority CEO, and few with even one minority officer at any senior level. Europeans who are offended by our questions may soon be forced to rethink, too.

Melinda: The argument for counting is simple: if you don’t know how many minorities you employ, you can’t begin to talk definitively about race or racism in the workplace.

Host:: Thank you very much.

Inspired by: A Question of Race. Why Is It So Hard to Find Minorities In Europe’s Boardrooms?, by Rana Foroohar, Newsweek February 18, 2002

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Listen to these descriptions and decide where these people come from:

  1. USA
  2. Great Britain
  3. Canada
  4. Australia
  5. Ireland
  6. Wales
  7. Scotland
Audio icon.gif   Listen A
Audio icon.gif   Listen B
Audio icon.gif   Listen C
Audio icon.gif   Listen D
Audio icon.gif   Listen E
Audio icon.gif   Listen F