So I saw on CNN today a news article about a manifesto floating around Google about gender diversity in the workplace. Take a look:
The basic premise of the manifesto is that men and women are different biologically, and that workplace programs that try to give more jobs to women are unfair because they bias against men who are possibly more qualified than the women who are chosen. He goes into great detail about opinions about how men are more driven to succeed due to biological factors like testosterone.
One big problem with the manifesto is that it is all based on stereotypes. He literally uses the phrase “women in general”, which is dangerous. History is full of examples of oppression that are simply based on simple stereotypes where all the members of a group of people are all labelled as being inferior simply because of the actions of a subset of the group. On one hand, there may in fact be some individuals in the group that are not as skilled or intelligent, but on the other hand, it also stereotypes that individuals who are not in that group are all superior, which is most certainly not true.
I attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and although there were more men than women, the percentages were reasonably close. A majority of the women that I studied alongside are just as capable of achievement as anyone that I have ever met. They were not hindered by the fact that they didn’t have testosterone or a penis hanging between their legs. The notion that some biological factor can limit you is not only insulting, it just doesn’t match up to reality. There are countless examples of people who were limited by some biological factor but were able to overcome those challenges and succeed to even greater degrees than people that didn’t have those challenges.
There was a similar debate on this years ago when California had affirmative action, which aimed to fill spots on college campuses with students from minority groups. It was argued that minorities were filling spots that should have been given to white students who were more deserving. There is definitely some merit to this argument, but it leaves out some harsh truths about our world – a lot of folks in those minority groups simply don’t have access to the same resources that white people do. I won’t say that every black school is bad or that all Mexican families are poor, but a lot of them are. Programs like affirmative action attempt to compensate for failures of our society in other areas. Is it the right approach? Probably not, but at least it was attempting to address the issue.
I will say that this is where the manifesto has some merit – the solution doesn’t fit the problem. Giving a job to a woman over a man because certain quotas need to be met can be unfair. In an ideal world, people would be hired based only on their abilities to fulfill the duties of the job, but we need to do more than just fix hiring practices. We need to shift as a culture away from assuming that just because someone is of a certain race, sex, political affiliation, etc., that they are inferior or incapable of doing something.
We have made incredible progress in the last 100 years, but we still have so far to go, and in the last few years, it feels like we are going backwards. Muslims are stereotyped as being terrorists, despite the fact that many of the terrorist events that have happened recently were committed by Christians. Blacks are viewed as being violent and criminal, despite the fact that many of them are outstanding citizens while plenty of white folks are out committing crimes. We have let the media distort the truth and control us by generating fear which distracts us from the real problems of this world.
While I can agree that companies may be unfairly filling roles by taking gender into account to fill some quotas, implying that women are biologically unfit for the roles simply goes too far. There can be many reasons why a male candidate ends up as a better fit than a woman, but I simply can’t believe that it would be because the man has a penis and the woman does not.