In case you missed it amidst all the other news last week (Wisconsin protests, New Zealand earthquake, The Last Airbender winning worst movie of the year), there's a debate raging across the pond as to whether there ought to be quotas for hiring more female CEOs to lead companies. I've been watching this debate unfold, because the comments people leave on these articles provides some insight into the thinking of some very polarized people. Furthermore, they reveal some seriously flawed assumptions.
Let's take Mike for example:
People should not be chosen for a job on the basis of gender, race or religion. In every case a job should go to the person best able to carry out that job. --Mike Rose, UK
You know, Mike, I agree with you 100%. I think that is a great statement. Except, please do something for me. Explain to me how a hiring manager identifies who the "best person able to carry out that job" is. Is it based on an objective, quantifiable measure? Say, number of publications, number of profits earned, number of customers acquired? Is it based on a gender-blind objective assessment of a candidate's writing skills, technical skills, or thinking skills?
Oh, it's usually not? Huh. Then how can best be determined? Awfully fuzzy, I'd say.
Here's the thing: in corporate America (and in your case, corporate Britain), there is systemic bias and discrimination against non-majority people. I say non-majority because this bias is something that goes beyond race, ethnicity, and gender discrimination. It also includes socio-economic status, parental status, marital status, sexual orientation, and cultural background.
You see, many of the people being discriminated against don't "fit" the mold very well. So in addition to never even getting called in for an interview because their name is "Jamal Brown" instead of "John Smith", if they are interviewed they don't make the final cut because they didn't fit the majority image the hiring manager had in their brain.
So in nearly every case, we're finding the majority person getting the top jobs because the non-majority person didn't fit this non-objective image of "the best person able to carry out that job".
Someone asked the head of Associated British Foods about its CEO hiring decisions. It 'says it has a duty to appoint the best candidate, "and to date that person has been male"'. (The Times, 25 Feb 2011).
Riiiight. Ok, Mike, let's look at the logic here:
- Companies always hire the "best candidate".
- The majority of Fortune 500/FTSE 100 companies are run by wealthy white men.
- Therefore, the best people to lead Fortune 500/FTSE 100 companies are wealthy white men.
Ok, I'm done picking on Mike. Fortune 500/FTSE 100 companies, this message is for you:
If you are truly committed to diversity, PROVE IT.
Stop padding your website and brochures with pictures showing how diverse you are and actually bring in some diverse leaders. Take a chance on a non-majority person for once. I promise, we don't bite. Usually.