Updated: Nov 15, 2021
The last few years have been especially have been rather factious, not just in the United Kingdom but the world over. A fraught silence has cloaked some, whilst others have been engulfed by a feeling of indignation; a verbal dyspepsia of 'woke' origins. To invoke the iconic Tim Curry in one of his greatest movies, the result has been something of removing the cause but not the symptom. The question, which I feel remains to be answered in the mainstream with any genuine effort, science and factual evidence, is whether these targets are like Cyrus The Great conquering the Babylonian Empire, or are more like Caligula with the Roman Emipire, leaving a selfish and capricious stain on the landscape.
The 2017 study by BSG and Technical University of Munich, and the 2019 paper by non-profit, feminist organisation Catalyst, for example, are amongst the papers cited by those who believe in what is referred to as 'equality of outcome' (a concept which stipulates that equality is achieved by making sure that every characteristic, or at least every protected and seemingly ostracised characteristic, is equally accounted for in the workplace). Proponents on this theory often suggest that diveristy targets help companies to become more cohesive, innovative, inclusive and better at problem-solving. The rationale behind this is that by having people from a wider array of backgrounds and walks of life within your team, you naturally will end up with a more able workforce who can respond more effeciently and appropriately to a wider range of client issues and needs. Indeed, many organisations have taken up this position, publishing their own diversity targets and opening up recruitment drives and 'early talent' events exclusively for specific groups of people (BAME, LGBT, Disabled etc.). This has now been taken a step further now by one of the world's largest investment firms, State Street, who aim to fulfill their target of tripling the number of BAME employees in their offices by 2023. A spokesperson for the company, Jess McNicholas, has commented on this revelation, saying: "All of our leaders have to demonstrate at their annual appraisals what they have done to improve female representation and the number of colleagues from ethnic-minority backgrounds" and that they hold themselves "accountable for strengthening black and Latinx owned businesses". On the face of it, this may well seem to be a perfectly noble and innocent endeavour. However, we must ask whether this is doing the complete opposite of its supposed intention, thereby creating less diversity and more tribalism and intolerance in society.
There certainly are many people who believe that these diversity targets are not a force for good at all; Professor Jordan Peterson, Camille Paglia and Heather Mac Donald to name just a few. The issue, as they see it, is difficult to summarise as it's multi-faceted, but centres around the ideas of neo-marxism, egalitarianism, tribalism and discrimination. For example, it could well be argued that by opening up hiring streams exclusively for people of a single ethnicity, gender, age or other characteristic would be discriminatory against those who then are not able to apply for the position. This discrimination then results in tribalism for two reasons; firstly those who aren't eligible to apply become disenfranchised and thus are likely to become less inclusive and tolerant of others, and secondly those within the companies find themselves in one of two groups (the first being those who were hired for their skin colour, age etc. rather than their abilities, the second being those who feel under threat from the sudden policy changes). This is just one of the arguments put forward to explain why, in their view, diversity targets breed hate and marxism, rather than promoting inclusiveness and healthy competition. It must be said, as well, that unlike those who are for these diveristy targets, those against it have some solid evidence to bring to the table, namely the Scandinavian countries. The countries which make up Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) have taken diversity further than any other countries on Earth, trying to equalise the numbers in every occupation and putting initiatives in place to try and encourage men and women to try jobs stereotypically associated with the other gender. The result has been quite the opposite; men and women are more divided in their fields than in the majority of other countries, and this extends from the bottom all the way to the top. Sweden, for example, has more women than men in managerial roles within the public sector, but still has a higher pay gap than countries which do not impose targets on the population, such as Italy and Romania. Additionally, despite taking diversity targets further than any other nation, or group of nations, on Earth towards improving ethnic diversity, no improvements are to be found in the figures. For example, less than 1% of managers in Norway’s 50 biggest companies have an ethnic minority background and those with foreign sounding names are 25% less likely to be offered an interview.
The reason for this can be demonstrated with some basic maths; say you are hiring nurses and have two pools to pick from. The first pool is full of highly qualified nurses, all with at least ten years experience. Now say that ninety percent of this pool is made up of white, middle class women. The second pool is full of nurses too, but these nurses aren't as highly qualified and only have an average of two years experience on the job. The majority of these nurses, however, are BAME, LGBT, disabled or state-educated. Of course, you may want to have as diverse a group of staff as possible, but it is mathetically impossible to do this without diluting the collective skills and abilities of said group of staff. This translates into the real world in exactly the same way. Sure, most bricklayers, taxi drivers, CEO's and surgeons are men, and most nurses, STEM students, legal professionals and health professionals are female, but there's nothing inherently wrong with that. It just so happens that people of different identity groups are better at or more interested in specific careers. This leads me to my conclusion and personal opinion on what we ought to do to improve diversity in a more appropriate manner.
The only way to improve diversity is to educate people and to make minorities aware that a wide range of careers are available to them. Bullying your way to equality, discriminating against people along the way, will not lead to any long-term gain. Instead we will end up with a less effective, more splintered work force in companies and less of a feeling of inclusion. Thereby, I propose that a natural, organic approach, utilising education throughout schooling to teach children that discriminating is wrong, combined with public appeals to encourage minorities to apply to jobs they want, even in the face of barriers and stereotypes against them, is the only way that will work without adverse effects in the future. Whilst this is a relatively vague suggestion, I feel that the above does point to diversity targets as being a cure worse than the disease. I am completely supportive of the concept of equality of opportunity and do believe that there is still discrimination in the workplace (in fact, I know it exists having experienced it based on several of my 'characteristics'). However, I also believe that the current way in which companies are going about their diveristy drives is something we will all live to regret.