Friday, July 15, 2005

The Twelfth Resume

Had a conversation the other day in which the person with whom I was talking suggested that a possible reason there are more men than women in business is that more men are interested in business careers.

My response was that traditionally women couldn't get such jobs, which has made an environment not exactly conducive to hiring women. I was willing to imagine that more resumes come in from men than women -- "Those first ten or eleven resumes may be from men," I said -- but that it was worth waiting to see more resumes if you could hire a woman or minority.

"But it's more expensive to interview more people, and to wait longer... it's sometimes just easier to hire men," he says.

"But it's worth it," I say. "It's worth it to wait for the eleventh or twelfth resume if you can get a candidate with the same qualifications, the same skills, but a woman or member of another minority."

He asked why. Here's my answer:

(1) A business environment of just white men is not the sort of company that makes sense anymore. It's not a place where you'll find a diversity of opinion or ideas, and it's not a place people will want to be.

(2) It helps create a society in which we don't have gender- or race-based inequality, until such extra effort is unnecessary. Take the time now, and you create an environment where people expect to see women and minorities, where it's not harder to hire them, where we're all on a more even footing. Waiting for the twelfth resume creates a world where you won't have to wait or search or struggle to find such candidates. And that's the kind of world we should be working toward. Just like affirmative action programs should create a world in which they are no longer needed.

I don't even care why companies do it -- in this case, transforming expectations and building a better world is too good a thing to let slide. Even if companies just pay lip service to the idea of diversity today, it creates a situation that we can't ever leave. Because once a woman runs a Fortune 500 company (or a black woman serves as Secretary of State, for instance) no one can say (without sounding like an idiot) that it can't be done. It can, and we can make it happen.

Wait for the twelfth resume.


bitchphd said...

Obviously I agree. And I'll add, based on things I've read about recruiting women and minorities in education, that you don't have to wait--you can go out looking. Depending on the company, of course, you can make a point of inviting women you know to apply, asking around about who's good, etc., and if no women's names come up just flat-out saying, "what about women?" and so forth. 'Cause you're right, people won't necessarily apply if they don't think they're welcome, but if you let 'em know, they will.

Devo said...

B2, while I agree with your conclusion -- that women and minorities belong in the workplace just as much as white men -- I don't think I agree with your reasoning. Your first answer almost seems to communicate that women and minorities automatically have different ideas and even think differently than white men. This is the same attitude as the "separate but equal" garbage that personified post-integration America, but dressed in a cute sun-dress and much more agreeable. As for your second reason, it almost seems contradictory. Enforcing raced-based equality is legitemizing the existence of and ostensibly entropic trend toward race-based INequality. That's building an uphill battle that I don't think you need.

I agree that a company needs to communicate a desire for diverse applicants; however, many factors make true diversity a thorny issue to approach. For example, (and this is completely disregarding race or gender as a factor, as those aren't the only determining aspects of diversity) you don't necessarily want a former record store owner applying for a position as Executive Director of an Investment Bank. This may sound flip and dismissive, but the way the educational system in America exists today, it's nearly impossible to get a truly diverse set of minds in a particular position. The SAT, for example, is more of a cultural test than an "intelligence" or "aptitude" test. Therefore, only those who are familiar with the culture in which the test was formulated can excel at it.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that in order to achieve true diversity in the workplace, more than just race and gender barriers need to be broken down. In fact, I'd argue that while race and gender -- while they still remain viable factors in determining identity -- are no longer factors in guaranteeing diversity of any kind.

B2 said...

Devo -- you write, "Your first answer almost seems to communicate that women and minorities automatically have different ideas and even think differently than white men."

Yes -- people are different, are refusing to recognize that fact is harmful. Not acknowledging that different culutral/religious backgrounds, and even gender, can cause differences in opinion is more faux-liberal "everyone is equal" dross. We should accept that people are different, and there is value to be had in acknowledging and welcoming those differences. The salad bowl, not the melting pot.

Devo said...

Touche, B2. (I say that way too often) But I think I was getting at something different, even if I didn't say it correctly. Gender and race DO contribute to diversity, but so do other factors. I tried to communicate that relying on race and gender to build a diverse workplace might be misguided. White men are just as capable of diverse thought as black men or hispanic women. Furthermore, race and gender don't necessarily imbue a particular mode of thought or action. A white male that, in all other respects, would be considered average might display a thought process or have viewpoints that would contribute to a far more diverse environment than an otherwise average-appearing minority or woman.

Overall, you're right, denying differences between genders and races is dangerous, but it's just as dangerous as expecting "a priori" differences BASED on race or gender. AT least that's how I see it...

B2 said...

Very well put, Devo.