David R. Henderson  

Pot Calling the Kettle . . . White?

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After years of playing down the problem, technology companies like Google, Facebook and Apple now say they're serious about improving the gender and ethnic diversity of their work forces and corporate boards. Recent data from those companies and others like them confirm what everyone has long known: Most of their employees are white and Asian men. Among technical employees, few are women, and even fewer are Latino or African-American.

Tech companies should care about these numbers. Many studies show that companies with gender and ethnic diversity tend to be more creative and more profitable, because varied perspectives help them design products and services that appeal to a diverse, worldwide audience.


These are the opening paragraphs of an editorial by the New York Times editorial board. The editorial, published October 5 in print, is titled "Silicon Valley's Diversity Problem."

The editorial also states:

Other kinds of businesses have used a similar approach. The National Football League, for example, has the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for every head coach or general manager opening.

At the end of the editorial is a link titled "Meet the New York Times Editorial Board." Do you see where this is going? John Hinderaker, at Powerline, did. He's the one who pointed it out. He writes:
The Times says it is a "problem" that "Most [Silicon Valley] employees are white and Asian men." So let's count! Sure enough, 11 of the editorial board's 19 members are white or Asian men. Worse, only one out of 19 is African-American. That's a little under one-half the proportion of African-Americans in the population. How about a Rooney Rule for the New York Times?

HT to Glenn Reynolds, aka The Instapundit.


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CATEGORIES: Labor Market




COMMENTS (35 to date)
ld bottorff writes:

I would think that the editorial board of the New York Times would want to reflect the ethnic proportions of New York city. (Heavy sarcasm implied)

Andrew_FL writes:

"Many studies"

Unsubstantiated assertion, citation needed.

And as long as we are talking about gross iniquity and the National Football League, one wonders where the Rooney Rule for the players is? Where blacks are very much over represented. I bet "many studies" would show that more ethnic diversity would enhance the creativity of plays, right?

JLV writes:

Har har, liberals are the real racists and all of that, of course.

But, as recently as last week, the New York Times published an article that self-critically examined diversity within the NYT organization, suggesting. (see here: http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/09/24/shonda-rhimes-alessandra-stanley-margaret-sullivan-column/) So your implied (dog-whistle-y) half joke about hypocrisy is neither funny nor particularly accurate. Unless being mean-spirited was the point, in which case I retract my point.

HH writes:

Quoting myself: Google needs to diversify its workforce every bit as much as the Seattle Seahawks do.

Ben Hughes writes:

The notion that a subgroup of some population "should" be proportional in any number of metrics is utter hogwash. How did this get to become so ingrained in our psyche?

The asymmetry of it all points out how muddled the thinking is: is anyone calling for the NBA to hire more white basketball players?

It seems to me that anti-descrimination law or similar social pressure has to have almost entirely bad effects.

More Z's will work for companies which are truly bigotted against Z's, but which will cover this up and indeed seek out token Z's. But, the true bigotry there will have bad effects on the Z's who work there. Absent the law, Z's would be guided by outright bigotry to companies who are fair or actually friendly to Z's.

On the other side, many Z's will sue employers who are not bigotted, but only making their frank evaluation of the Z's abilities. Non-bigots will have some incentive to not hire Z's just because they are a legally favored class.

Possibly bigots should be left alone to discriminate and suffer from not hiring the best people they could.

Salem writes:

As a non-American, for me the strangest part is how they don't seem to be counting Asians as an ethnic minority.

mico writes:

It seems odd how "white" can become "white and asian" without explanation or seemingly even thought. At least, the story doesn't make sense if the reader is not expected to read "white and asian" as he would formerly have read just "white".

Is the theory being implicitly advanced by these newspapers that white-owned tech companies are, for some reason, discriminatory in favour of asians but against blacks and hispanics? Why?

Doesn't this instead suggest that the whole attempt to explain any racial employment disparity as an expression of the racial preferences of the owners is at best very incomplete, if not generally false?

MG writes:

To add to Salem and mico...notice that the term "white" can also downgrade "Hispanic", as those following the Martin-Zimmerman case will remember. "White Hispanic" cured any confusion as to whom to root for. The power of white to downgrade ethnic virtue is such that it can even corrupt "black" when not otherwise in evidence -- thus "Oreos". Those who want to play the race/gender card game more straightforwardly simply append "Republican" or "Libertarian" to the otherwise minority class (which also includes majorities, like women) and you achieve the same effect.

RPLong writes:

JLV - I'm not sure how one recent article gets the Times off the hook here. The article to which you linked provides exactly zero substantive, actionable recommendations to the Times for how they can fix their inequality problem. I thought it was very much an example of the fox guarding the henhouse.

I also wonder whether the phrase "dog whistle" is itself a dog whistle.

Ricardo writes:

It's so touching that the NY Times would be worried about Google underperforming relative to potential!

David R. Henderson writes:

@Ben Hughes, Salem, mico, and MG,
Good points.
@JLV,
Actually, I doubt that either employers in Silicon Valley or employers at the New York Times are racist, at least in the usual sense of that term.

Colin Barnard writes:

Tech companies are made of techies. And when I went I graduated (5 years ago) both the engineering and computer science student body was easily > 90% male.

That's the talent pool they're pulling from. Not some generic pool of workers.

NZ writes:

David: I just wrote a letter to the NY Times about this. I BCCed you on it.

Daublin writes:

These big tech companies have always had very loud, obnoxious programs for improving "diversity" within the company. I personally find it queesy whenever I have to sit through one of these talks from high-level people, but it seems to be the norm.

Part of why I get queesy is that I don't understand why an imperfect balance of some property is a "problem" rather than an observation. Saying it's a "problem" implies that there should be some active effort to oppose the situation. Why would that be, though?

Certainly it is not for efficiency. If you hire women because they are women, it's no better than hiring blonds because they are blonds, or short people because they are short. If you hire based on superficial features, then you're inevitably going to short change your ability to hire for the substance of a person's skill set. It hurts the company, and it hurts the economy at large.

That means it must be for some other reason than efficiency. What else can you go with, though? I really don't know, and I don't think it's so obvious. I know what kind of people who end up in these positions, though, and it makes me queasy.

Jeff writes:

I'm on the New York Times' side on this one. Creating cutting edge software and IT products in a competitive environment is easy; almost anyone can do it, so in my mind Google really has no excuse for not hiring more minority candidates. Writing editorials every day by committee: that's a real challenge.

NZ writes:

@Daublin:

The unstated assumption in the editorial, and in the talks that make you queasy, is that race and gender are proxies for other less superficial traits. (Of course, this implies that race and gender are something OTHER than superficial, but we don't want to think bad thoughts do we?)

By diversifying the staff, the thinking goes, the company will diversify its perspectives and insights and so forth and thus be more creative and innovative.

The problem is that these people are not stopping to ask

  1. if these diverse perspectives are truly needed for the success of the company and its products, and
  2. whether the company has other, better ways of gathering "diverse" perspectives than hiring the people who hold them as full-time employees.
Of course, they know full well the answers (1. sometimes, 2. yes) but their real purpose is to agitate for race-quotas.

They are thinking one thing and saying another. Journalists lie, what a shocker.

Shane L writes:

When diversity is discussed it is usually in terms of a few set criteria: race, sex, religion, sexuality, nationality, etc. One could choose other criteria, though.

For example: height, taste in music, rural/urban upbringing, even diet.

I can imagine that diversity does benefit a company's management, but also that a five foot tall white man who grew up listening to bluegrass in some Appalachian woodlands would have a more distinct worldview from current Google workers than, say, a middle class black woman raised in San Francisco. Simply, there are kinds of diversity that are not thought about much.

Jay writes:

@JLV

So the NYT publishes a single article pointing out the problem and they can wipe their hands clean of the whole thing and continue pointing fingers at other companies?

Massimo writes:

"As a non-American, for me the strangest part is how they don't seem to be counting Asians as an ethnic minority."

"They", the ultra-liberal social justice warriors, block out any facts that don't fit their narratives of injustice that serve as flimsy excuses to seize power.

Bostonian writes:

Google and other tech companies are worth a lot because they have very smart people working for them. Their doing so without being "diverse" suggests that the distribution of "very smart" people is not the same in the two sexes or the various races, at least in technical fields. This heretical idea must be suppressed by the right-thinking people at the NYT.

mico writes:

NZ: It's worse than that. The editorial contains two unstated assumptions:

1. That all races are on average equally good at everything. Without this assumption one cannot assume ipso facto that racial distributions of employment that differ from the population distribution are unfair or unjust.

and

2. That each race brings something unique to a business, which combine to produce something worth more than the sum of its parts.

These assumptions are contradictory.

The article simply flips from the initial assumption that racial disparities shouldn't exist because beneath the surface we're all the same, to the assumption that racial disparities shouldn't exist because beneath the surface we have important differences that always synergize to produce extra profits.

Now it may well be that the second premise is true, or at least that this effect sometimes exists, even if it doesn't exist in this case. But the NYT never stops to consider the fact that, if it is, it completely demolishes the premise upon which their initial objection to lack of minorities (except asians who don't count!) in IT is based. Having accepted that racial skill differences can exist, they cannot reasonably assume that the optimal distribution in every business is always whatever the current distribution of the US population happens to be.

D writes:

Hmmm... so one of our most competitive, effective/successful, cogntitive-based industries disproportionately hires whites and Asians?

Does the NYT ever wonder that they're actually making Steve Sailer's arguments for him?

NZ writes:

@mico:

Your #2 raises another point worth making:

If you add, for example, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and garbanzo beans to a salad of iceberg lettuce, you'll wind up with some interesting flavors and textures without which your salad would have been rather bland and boring, but with which your salad is now much improved. (Some of that depends on your taste, but you get what I mean.)

The NYT Editorial board and [way too] many others believe that races combine the same way. But this is not the case.

Races combine more like cleaning products: a small concentrate of one diluted by a large quantity of another can sometimes be very effective (beneficial to both), but if you just take as many different chemicals as possible and dump them in a bucket together, and especially if you mix certain ones like bleach and ammonia, you wind up with a real disaster.

NZ writes:

@mico:

"Having accepted that racial skill differences can exist, they cannot reasonably assume that the optimal distribution in every business is always whatever the current distribution of the US population happens to be."

But of course this isn't even in the ballpark of which questions they're asking.

MikeP writes:

As a non-American, for me the strangest part is how they don't seem to be counting Asians as an ethnic minority.

Another strange part is that in the last few years south Asians and east Asians have become simply Asians even though they share virtually no common ethnic or cultural traits save being separated on the largest landmass on earth by the largest mountain range on earth.*

This is not mainly because "whites, east Asians, and south Asians" is more clumsy than "whites and Asians". Rather it's because every ethnicity added to the list of "favored" groups dilutes that much more the claims that the cause is racism.

* Note that, by this standard, Europeans and Asians should be counted together as well, as they have in common being separated by the Urals.

NZ writes:

@MikeP:

"Asians" because 1. they come from the geographic continent of Asia and nearby islands and 2. no matter what part of Asia they're from, white people are not surprised to see them doing well in the tech industry.

If Aboriginal Australians excelled in tech, they'd be lumped in with Asians too.

Bostonian writes:

"Another strange part is that in the last few years south Asians and east Asians have become simply Asians even though they share virtually no common ethnic or cultural traits"

"Oriental" used to be a respectable term, but it is no longer PC, so Orientals are now called Asians.

MikeP writes:

no matter what part of Asia they're from, white people are not surprised to see them doing well in the tech industry.

NZ,

There is insufficient evidence to say that Asians do well in the tech industry. All we can say is that Asians in the US do well in the tech industry.

And Asians in the US do well in the tech industry largely because they or their parents came to the US as the highly selected technological cream of their respective nations.

Those Asians who came or whose ancestors came to the US through some other route -- e.g., Filipinos over the last century, Laotians, Cambodians and Vietnamese after the Vietnam war, longtime Japanese and Cantonese Californians -- are likely not as highly represented in the tech industry as newly immigrated Chinese and Indians and their children.

Massimo writes:

@MikeP + @NZ, Asians aren't even people from Asia. Traditional white Russian people are considered European, even though they are from Asia.

The ethnic categories are always very rough and imprecise. Hindu Indians are probably genetically closer to Euro whites, but are classified as Asians. Arabs and North Africans are grouped as Caucasians with Euro whites, but are culturally quite different.

NZ writes:

@MikeP:

I was simply saying that if you tell a white person "Company X's employees are 57% white and 43% Asian" the typical white person, especially an off-the-clock journalist, will shrug and say "Yeah, sounds about right."

@Massimo:

I was not making anthropological statements about what exactly defines an Asian or member of any other race. I was explaining how the word Asian is used in common vernacular, especially in journalism.

Jay writes:

@mico

I think its worse than that, their 3rd assumption is that even if the first two are true (which as you say is impossible as they are contradictory), that the companies themselves, the most successful companies in the U.S. and the world, don't know these gems of wisdom already or know them but choose to ignore them and only right-minded folks like the NYT can show them the light.

Massimo writes:

These are easy and obvious counter points. The left's strategy is to dilute rather than debate the strong counter points, aggressively promote their narrative, and seize power.

The entire issue of race is a cauldron of lies and hypocrisy in America.

David Henderson endorses Nelson Mandela as a saint. You have to make similar race based leaps of logic to come to that conclusion. It is beyond bizarre to see such a committed terrorist and unrepentent murderer win an award of "peace".

Charley Hooper writes:

Newsflash! Large companies have been trying to increase "diversity" for decades.

I was hired by a Fortune 100 company 25 years ago. My hiring was announced matter of factly in the department newsletter. A few weeks later, my department hired a woman and bragged about that in the newsletter. Later, a black woman was hired and the newsletter positively gushed about that fact. I was taken aback.

This company was racist and sexist, but not in the traditional way.

If such companies still don't have "diverse" workforces, what conclusions can we draw about the supply of qualified candidates?

TMC writes:

"Har har, liberals are the real racists and all of that, of course." Not racists, but hypocrites.

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