A white middle-class view of diversity

I forget who sent me the link to this Spectator piece – apologies, whoever you are – but I liked this bit:

Diversity statistics, too, have a whiff of the five-year plan. Thousands of hiring decisions will be made in pursuit of diversity targets without changing social mobility at all. Because most measures do not measure ‘diversity’, but a white middle-class view of what diversity looks like.

In one prestigious organisation recently, a manager was recounting the impressive ethnicity figures for his department. His staff were half female, many of Indian origin. An Indian colleague smiled: ‘Um, you do realise that almost everyone is from the Brahmin caste, do you?’ To English eyes, the department was a model of meritocracy — to an Indian it looked like the crowd at an Eton-Harrow match.

It’s as if HR departments are crying out for someone, anyone, with a modicum of competence.

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25 thoughts on “A white middle-class view of diversity

  1. No. They *don’t* want competence. Or rather, competence is measured purely against what white middle-class guiltmeisters care about this week.

    All this story shows is that there’s never any actual end to diversity. You think you’ve got there, and then someone will say “But what about the Xs?”. And next week it will be “What about the Ys?”

  2. No, they *don’t* want competence.

    Some will, and will be desperate for it. Certainly not big companies anyone’s heard of, though.

  3. The British Asian community is very diverse, but there’s a big split in the life-outcomes those whose parents were lawyers, accountants, doctors or teachers (and whose family back on the subcontinent might be drawn from the merchant or land-owning class) versus those descended from Kashmiri peasants who moved to Britain to work in the mills. But if you just tally up skin colours, you wouldn’t know it, because you’d see the socio-economically “successful” group as an indication of how dynamic, well-integrated and socially mobile Britain is.

    When I was at Cambridge, there was a big push from the institutional side to get a more representative intake of students, and a campaigning/lobbying group of “black” students who backed the plan and would help organising open days or tours for potential minority applicants. I put the inverted commas because “black” was self-defined at the time, and in fact they were almost all Asian! I don’t know if this is still politically acceptable. Anyhow, there were so few black British undergraduates at the time, there probably wouldn’t have been enough of them to flesh out their committee. (And, there being wheels within wheels, I’ll let you hazard a guess as to how many of those black students had a background that involved a plush English private school and parents who had come over from West Africa as doctors or businessmen, rather than an Afro-Caribbean kid from one of the slummier parts of Birmingham or South London.)

    Anyway, because I sat on my college’s Junior Common Room Committee, I was volunteered to show round a 17-year-old lad who’d wrangled a place on one of these special tours for “black” future applicants. With the internet being in its infancy. you’d have needed the right connections or advice to know these tours even existed of course – I don’t know how much outreach was actually going on in the very roughest corners of Britain’s state school system. The lad turned out to be bright, well-spoken, and of Indian heritage. Not many people from his school went to Cambridge he assured us, mostly they went to Oxford instead – it was nearer. He went to Harrow.

  4. >Some will, and will be desperate for it.

    For the sake of your future employment prospects, I hope you’re right.

    But do you really want to be going anywhere near anything that involves any sort of diversity? I guess you’ve thought about it, though, and your answer is yes, so all I can say is good luck, you’re a brave man. (It’s funty that your internet critics presume you’re a shouty and intolerant type, when really you’re quite a patient and sympathetic man. At least compared to the rest of us.)

  5. Diversity in this context means a Noah’s Ark approach to selection. You want two of everything regardless of the percentage of the population that your selection represents.

  6. ‘Um, you do realise that almost everyone is from the Brahmin caste, do you?’

    I would have bought tickets to see the look on that Managers face when she heard that. Utterly priceless.

  7. Some will, and will be desperate for it.

    Is that based on research, or wishful thinking? Because I’ve worked at a number of companies as small as 80 people (In the Deranged Dominion, over 50 employees a bunch of regulations kick in that generally require a dedicated HR person to navigate) and with exactly one exception HR there was absolutely as cunty as in any of the large multinationals.

  8. I do hope half his staff were female rather than his staff half female, but I guess you can never be quite sure these days.

  9. For the sake of your future employment prospects, I hope you’re right.

    If not, general management beckons: being able to do operational work while covering the HR function would certainly have been a bonus in a regional manager of a few companies I’ve worked for. And if not, then it’s back to being a project engineer in the oil business; a year out during a slump won’t render me unemployable.

  10. Is that based on research, or wishful thinking?

    It’s based mainly on talking to people: I’ve yet to meet a single person who doesn’t wish their HR department was radically overhauled.

    with exactly one exception HR there was absolutely as cunty as in any of the large multinationals.

    Is this because the company management asked for such HR people, or they simply hired professional HR people and this is what they got? I suspect the latter.

    The point is, I only need one job. I don’t need the world to think differently, I need to find one, solitary company whose managers think a little differently and say “Ah, this is someone who will fit in here”. And I’m confident, with some hunting around, I’ll find a small technical company which fits the bill. Every other enterprise, big and small, can spend their days in one diversity meeting after another for all I care.

  11. HD – No, they *don’t* want competence.

    Tim – Some will, and will be desperate for it. Certainly not big companies anyone’s heard of, though.

    I think you two are talking past each other: they do want competence, generaly. But from the people they’ve hired to meet the diversity targets, they want a different kind of competence, one which looks identical to incompetence to a normal person.

  12. “And I’m confident, with some hunting around, I’ll find a small technical company which fits the bill.”

    I think you would fit in in a company like ours, but I suspect, when we eventually go down this road, we will want someone with some experience. Probably someone who’s worked somewhere bigger and wants a slower pace of life. In your shoes I’d be worrying about how to get the first job rather than the dream job, but that first job may make you old and cynical.

  13. That story reflects my experience too and part of the reason why the people in the City and big business can’t understand why most people are beginning to hate immigration. They only see the top 20% of any immigrant class, the professionals and those with money and connections. The bulk of immigrants, those with little skills and even less intelligence never enter into their world but they sure enter the world of the people who have to live near them.

  14. A friend of mine is a quite talented programmer from India and her career has really taken off since she moved to the USA. She was brought in from Delhi to work on our project in the UK and being good she was inevtitably doomed to stay in the same position forever.

    She once complained to me that she was fed up with working for this company because the Indians “always had a bloody Brahmin to manage them, this sort of thing doesn’t happen in Delhi !”

  15. The diversity targets are interesting from the point of view of those who are not diverse. In order to get to the target female ratio for the next layer above me in the timescale 95% of vacancies that are likely to come up *have* to be filled by women. So basically I’m going to be ignored then no matter how good I appear. And yes I recognise they have to give the role to the person who has the best skills and fit else it’s discrimination. But they can write whatever they want in the role description and experience and competence won’t be the main criteria for choice. Behaviour and fit will be as these can be judged by amorphous judgements rather than facts.

    So how the hell did the target get issued? Did no one high up realise or even ask the questions I’ve asked? No. Because it isn’t wise and will damage one’s career to not be a complete supporter of diversity.

    Only hope for Tim is to find a company where diversity isn’t a corporate aim but a by product of finding competent people. It may be my only hope as well.

  16. For me “diversity” simply means “anti-white”. In the UK, working-class white boys have worse life outcomes than any other ethnic group, but there’s no talk of helping them.

    So why are so many white people in favour of diversity? I can understand that the more junior types have been told that they’d better be in favour of it – or else. But the higher-ups promoting it are almost always also white. Why? Do they really want to be passed-over for a promotion in favour of someone less capable, but more diverse? Do they want their children to be refused admission to a good university for the same reason? Or have they figured out ways round this?

  17. SD –

    For me “diversity” simply means “anti-white”.

    Wrong, it means “anti-working/middle-class white”. (Class isn’t quite the right lens to view it thru, but whatever.)

    So why are so many white people in favour of diversity? I can understand that the more junior types have been told that they’d better be in favour of it – or else. But the higher-ups promoting it are almost always also white. Why?

    Because there are good whites and bad whites, and to prove you’re a good white, you have to demonstrate hostility to the bad ones. Otherwise people might start thinking you’re a bad one, and you can’t have that, especially when you consider the way people determine whether you’re good or bad: if good people think that you’re bad, then you must be bad; if you’re hostile to bad people, then you must be good. So if people are hostile to you, then it must mean that they’re good, and that must mean that you’re bad. And being bad is bad.

    It’s critical, then, for people concerned about their future to not attract any hostility at all, and the best way to do that is to conform and deflect: feed some bad people to the good people, and join in the ritual denunciation. Thus you have transmogrified yourself into a good person.

    …working-class white boys have worse life outcomes than any other ethnic group, but there’s no talk of helping them.

    That’s because they’re bad whites. You can tell, because if they weren’t bad, then good people would be interested in helping them. And we know that the people who aren’t interested in helping them are good, since they’re not interested in helping bad people.

    Once you understand who’s good and who’s bad, it all makes perfect sense. Especially if you’re good.

  18. It has been my experience that HR departments know less about “diversity” than the employees themselves. My experience being mostly software companies. I would work daily with more people born outside the US than natural born citizens. Indians, Chinese (Honk Kong, Taiwan, mostly true), cubans, blind people, Whathaveyou. Then once or twice a year we would all get herded into a conference room to be haranged by some white woman, or black woman, whose greatest cultural experience was a weekend in Aruba about culture differences and be force fed urban legends (Chevy Nova…No va….in Spanish that means it doesn’t go…get it?). Then it got worse when they started to punish…excuse me, educate…the thickheaded American managers who at some point during the year had made an obviosly stupid diversity boo-boo, by making them teach these classes.

  19. I think you would fit in in a company like ours, but I suspect, when we eventually go down this road, we will want someone with some experience.

    I actually have tonne of HR experience: I was General Manager of a company in Russia for two years, which involved plenty of HR including quota applications and visa processing, as well as local content issues. I could probably do an HR job now, but I’d be winging it more than I’d like to. The purpose of doing a proper course is so my information is complete and structured, to give me the confidence I’ll not be missing something important and also give me access to the various tools, etc. I’m hoping the combination of my existing experience and the formal qualification will be enough.

    However, I am expecting people to say “But it doesn’t actually say HR in any of your previous job titles”, which will be a clear sign they’re not who I’m looking for.

    Probably someone who’s worked somewhere bigger and wants a slower pace of life.

    In my experience, small companies usually avoid hiring long-term employees from the giant competitors because they’ve gotten too used to working in a sprawling bureaucracy. If you want a slower pace of life, don’t join a small company, stay in the blue chip corporation.

    In your shoes I’d be worrying about how to get the first job rather than the dream job, but that first job may make you old and cynical.

    Dream jobs don’t exist, I just need one I don’t hate. I’m certainly not daft enough to be chasing a dream job, but taking an HR role in a massive company is pointless also.

  20. Becoming communist?

    I’ve worked in some huge places and some behaviour is just like something out of the Soviet union. I worked in a bug fixing team and the manager insisted on the quickest dirtiest sticking plasters. Because her bonus was based on bugs fixed. So doing a good fix not only took longer but lowered her stats. That’s just like Soviet tractor factories.

    Or travel: you have the travel bureaucracy that book you a hotel. The wrong side of Manchester. At a higher price than one you can get on laterooms for Mottram Hall. And it’s almost impossible to change because they come under the services director, which means that if you want to change the process, it has to go right up to board level. So noone bothers.

    I’ve worked in local authorities that were more dynamic than some large corporations I can name.

  21. ” how to get the first job rather than the dream job, but that first job may make you old and cynical.”

    Are we sure that this has not already happened?

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