Diversity Is The New Form of Bias

A new law in California mandates female representation on the boards of all public companies that are incorporated in California.

As a female, I’m appalled.

Let me be clear. Of course there should be females on all of the boards across the country, not just California. All things being equal, statistically, that should be a given since we are the majority population (50.8%). But I don’t want or expect a seat because I’m a majority.

I want that seat because I’m qualified for it.

I think the law is well-intentioned. It sets out to address the legacy of gender inequality in the workplace that still appears as a result of stereotyping and assumptions about women’s obligations to family over business. And again, I’ll concede that such stereotypes exist for a reason.

 A lot has changed in the last 100 years, but women are still fighting an upward battle of juggling expectations of work and home Source: Public Domain, Commons Wiki
A lot has changed in the last 100 years, but women are still fighting an upward battle of juggling expectations of work and home Source: Public Domain, Commons Wiki

Females have traditionally faced what was seen by many as a dichotomous choice—career or family—and have frequently been shamed if the former was prioritized. As recently as 2013 a survey by the Pew Research Center found that “among working parents of children younger than 18, mothers in [] spent an average of 14.2 hours per week on housework, compared with fathers’ 8.6 hours. And mothers spent 10.7 hours per week actively engaged in child care, compared with fathers’ 7.2 hours.”

Given the finite nature of time in any one day, there are certainly trends here that demonstrate either a female choice or a societal expectation that has been honored. Either way, as those norms have been increasingly bucked, we would expect that females doing the same job in the workforce should be compensated equally in both pay and opportunity. Unfortunately, herein lies the quandary.

It is not my intention for this article to spin off into a tirade about the need for equal pay/opportunity for the genders, but rather, a calm assessment of how we best address that need. The California response feels to me more like an insult than an opportunity.

I’m not anti-diversity. I’m simply anti-bias. And there is an important distinction to be made.

Forcing the hiring of women-only further silos the issue and creates another form of bias – one that is potentially more injurious to women. Instead of being seen as true contributors to the organizations we serve, females might easily now be seen as figureheads or token voices.

Why are we enforcing legislation to try to patch over biases that will still exist when the women are sitting on these boards? Why not try to change the bias at its core by adopting software programs that can help eliminate biasing factors from resumes? We have the technology to make smarter decisions about the most highly qualified candidates for any of our positions sans bias. Let’s allow technology to help us challenge the norms we hold and accept the results that our own biased brains can’t see. Next time I’m asked to be on a board, you can bet I’ll ask to see the other candidates that were considered to ensure I measure up by more than just my gender. Replacing old biases with new ones serves no one.

More from the

FEAR[less] blog