Equality of opportunity: why diversity isn’t necessarily diverse

“Insulating people from reality produces unrealistic people. It doesn’t matter whether they are welfare recipients, spoiled rich kids, tenured professors in the Ivy League, or federal judges with lifetime appointments.” – Thomas Sowell

The idea that we live in a strange time in the world is not a new one, nor will it break any ground. The facts are obvious but the strangeness seems to be multiplying recently. Perhaps it is just me, but then I feel more sane now that I have for a long time. The worrying thing is, so does everyone else.

We live in a time where everything seems backwards to me. We have fallen through the looking glass and for some reason feel like that world makes more sense. It just goes to show how fucked up things were before that wonderland is better. The easy answer to any question that I might ask is to roll your eyes and tell me I’m old and out of touch, the more likely response is to accuse me of some kind of hate crime, that is the popular way forward, but we plod along anyway because unless you question what is happening then how are you supposed to learn.

We have drifted away from an idea that there is merit in a ‘equality of opportunity’ mentality. That is to say that everyone regardless of gender, skin colour religion, favourite sandwich, if they have the same experience and qualifications has the same chance at getting a job, promotion etc. Instead we now have a culture where ‘equality of outcome’ is what is prized, seemingly with no regard for the fact that this is likely to cause more harm than good.

Through a series of misadventures I found myself reading through details of CSR’s from quite large companies to judge their community practices. One point caught my eye with regards to employment, which was quite a feat as I waded through all of the platitudes and buzz words. The point that was made was that the leadership team for the company was 70% female, stating that they had ‘achieved’ a 70% female leadership team. This was problematic for me on a number of levels. Firstly the word ‘achieved’ makes it sound like this was the goal of the company from the start and that their sole focus for filling the roles was that they wanted females. But the implication is along with this that the company has systematically been stopping females from being promoted, otherwise their majority in the leadership team is not an achievement, it is something that simply happened as a result of that number of technically qualified individuals.

On the other hand if the CSR had read “our leadership team is 70% female” I have no problem with that, it makes sense, there is no where in the world that, in promoting the most qualified individuals, would reach an even 50-50 in terms of gender, or for that matter any other demographic.

Thomas Sowell has discussed at length the practices of universities in America when it comes to the recruitment of students and the unfair inflation and deflation of required grades for admission for people of different ethnic backgrounds. The initial issue with this, as with a company making a specific point of promoting a certain gender or ethnic group, is that people around you begin to question whether you are there on merit or because of the initiative that was in place at the time of your application. Sowell concentrates his critique on the effect that these admissions processes have had on the graduation levels of the African American community. Sowell notes that when the admissions standards were held equal for all races there was a higher proportion of African American students graduating from university than there are today. Sowell states that the reason for the decline in graduation figures is because of students being accepted (artificially) onto courses that are above their capability in order to increase the diversity numbers of certain institutions. As a result more students are dropping out of their courses as they are too difficult, whereas if they had been allowed to attend a course that was more suited to their grade level then they would have a much higher chance of graduating.

The other problematic with the boast of having ‘achieved’ 70% female leadership is that when there is such a focus on promoting a gender specifically, are you promoting the correct people from that gender, as in those best suited for the job, or are you just promoting as many people as you can? I ask this in view of my own experience and from Sowell’s observations. I myself attended university as a result of the entrance grades being lowered in order to encourage people from ‘areas where people don’t usually go to university’ to apply. I am the kind of person who is easily bored by school, I was and still am, there is something I enjoy about being practical with learning, creative at the very least, and school does not appeal to that part of the brain very often, instead you are expected to get used to a rigid, post industrial revolution, timetable that gets you ready for the factories and the offices and you learn to be a good German.

As a result of an accident of naming and the alphabetical nature of school registers I spent my school career sitting next to or near the same girl all of the way through my education. She was extremely bright and hard working; I was bright and lazy. Yet we ended up sitting next to each other every day as part of the same university course despite me missing the standard acceptance level (which she achieved with room to spare) by seven grades. Personally I believe that seeing me every day must have been an insult to her. I certainly consider it so now, once again I was bored at school, as a result didn’t really engage and got a distinctly average degree which has served me very little, if at all, since.

I believe that had I looked as institutions and courses that were better suited to my level and manner of learning then I would have performed better academically as well as using my degree in my career after university, as it was I graduated and immediately avoided anything to do with my degree for as long as possible. There was no longer any interest for me, knocked out as it had been by three years of studying something that was not suited to me at all.

The crux of the issue is something that I can relate to. The idea is that there are things we ‘ought’ to be doing; there is very little consideration as to why we are doing it or whether we want to. I chose my university course because I was accepted onto it, not because it was what I wanted to study necessarily, I chose the institution because of the prestige of attending there above other schools in the area. The same is now occurring in every walk of life, especially when you look at social media. There is no longer room to deviate even slightly from the ‘acceptable’ path. This is a totalitarian dictatorship, but one without a figurehead, there is no longer a need for a stazi because we are policing ourselves so effectively. There is very rarely room for free thought or contradicting opinions. You either go along with what is popular at the time (peer pressure?) or you are cast out from acceptable society. Dystopic writers were wrong, there is no need for a thought police, instead we have a population that, as a result of over sharing their lives on social media, have become so petrified of being in anyway different from ‘the norm’ that they will pounce on the smallest of infractions and castigate you for any minor mis step, in a vain attempt to nudge the spotlight slightly further away from them. Judging others is only fun if there is no blowback.

Companies are following suit as I have learned. Their CSR’s are full of buzz words and platitudes but very little concrete information. They say all of the right things, the propaganda is strong, it keeps the masses happy and pointing the spotlight elsewhere. But there are questions never asked as a result, are they actually carrying out the practices that they are espousing? What does 70% of the leadership team mean? It sounds good but are all of the lower managers women and the people telling them what to do men? I do not know, how many people read that far.

A comparison was made between American presidents Trump and Obama recently that I found quite interesting and sums up the current issues that we are having. Through an analysis of words and actions by each president it was found that Obama said things that people wanted to hear but his actions did not reflect the rhetoric, nevertheless he is considered a ‘popular’ president. Trump on the other hand says a great number of unpopular things, yet once again the actions do not reflect the rhetoric. In each case the majority of actions taken were more reflective of the speech of the other president and yet the reaction of the culture is to the words and not the actions. It seems that our attention span has grown so short that as long as you say the right thing then you can do whatever you want. We no longer pay attention long enough to care about what you do, just agree with us and tell us what we want to hear and we will leave you alone.

 

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