‘DIVERSITY’ is the new religion of the 21st Century, and strict adherence to its teachings is mandatory. For some, success is not judged by ledgers but by how inclusive and diverse an organisation is. It is a term that divides opinion, society and the workplace. A race, sex and skin-colour minefield for employers already facing problems caused by a global pandemic whilst disentangling themselves from the knot of everyday bureaucratic red tape.
Britain’s financial regulators, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has joined the Church of Diversity’s congregation and is now a disciple of its doctrine. It ‘proposes’ that London-listed companies should have at least 40% women and one non-White director in their boardrooms. Comply or explain is the ominous warning. So, more of an edict than a proposal then. A Do-As-We-Suggest-Or-Else order from on high.
The FCA, established to protect consumers, now wants to dictate the maximum number of men allowed in boardrooms.
It is an irony of ironies that while many applaud organisations, institutions, and bodies like the FCA, that lecture and hector employers to follow a sex-over-merit recruitment drive, they remain strangely silent when the words women, female, ladies and girls are slowly erased from our vocabulary, during pregnancy, at work, in changing rooms, education and sporting events etc to appease a tiny, vociferous group. Women are increasingly being referred to as ‘People’, but men, the lucky devils, may keep their nouns.
To meet its own suggested quota of 40% reserved female positions in the boardroom the FCA has had to retain the term ‘women’ but allow it to include men self-identifying as women. This could of course be used as a loophole if enough male directors chose to self-identify as women – throwing the whole process and the FCA into ridicule.
And what about applicants of mixed parentage? Do they still count as an ethnic minority if they have Western facial features and are fair-skinned? I know of people from mixed backgrounds who are fair-haired, fair-skinned and blue-eyed. Do they meet the current quota requirements?
How about other groups of the victimhood network who think they too are a minority of some description or another? Should seats at the top table be reserved for them too? The point is, any company, organisation, body, authority and institution wishing to dip their toes in the diversity and inclusivity pool had better be prepared for the consequences of their ill-thought of, ill-judged and ill-conceived plan.
Once you open Pandora’s box of grievances, its lid is lost forever.
Good intentions do not pay salaries, bills and taxes. Successful and productive personnel, employed on merit, working for successful companies, do. Inviting employees to take a smooth escalator ride to the very top, because they enable the ticking of diversity quotas, is a flawed scheme that is patronising and condescending to women and ethnic minorities. It may as well be a flashing neon sign in boardrooms up and down the country informing everyone that the black, brown, Asian, mixed and/or female chair, CEO, senior independent director or chief financial officer is there, not on personal merit, but, in compliance with quota rules.
It is a megaphone blaring out the subtext that the CVs of these employees were not up to scratch but, what they lacked in intellect, experience and merit, they made up for handsomely in skin tone and XX chromosomes and were, therefore, entitled to be escorted up the career ladder. Personally, I take it to mean that I, and anyone else with non-100% white DNA, are incapable of succeeding on our own and need help from heavy-handed authorities and their illiberal laws. I would also worry that a highly suitable, intelligent and experienced applicant was passed over because he was male, white, or both.
Growing up, I lived through a policy brought in to ‘level up’ sections of the population. Different country, different label, same bulldozing method. Based on their race and religion, one group of people were singled out and, via quotas, guided through the open doors of good schools and universities, awarded scholarships to study abroad, and handed jobs and boardroom positions. It led to a brain drain that benefitted other countries. Students left home to study in the universities of English-speaking countries, achieved their goals of becoming doctors, lawyers, pharmacologists, engineers, designers, accountants, professors etc, and never returned home. People looking to start businesses, took their money and invested it in foreign countries. Will we lose our homegrown professionals, innovators, entrepreneurs, financial whizz kids and astute businessmen because The Quota has to be respected and complied with?
It is a moral hazard that will make our businesses and economy sub-optimal.
Britain’s grievance complex needs to be dismantled. The tendency to blame unsatisfactory outcomes in one’s life on race and sex needs to be challenged. We have to stop tip-toeing around this subject. The small group of people who shout discrimination at every opportunity do not speak for all of us. A reluctance to question and challenge these cries of discrimination will, in the end, divide us and cause irreparable harm to society.
Diluting capability, ability and intellect in boardrooms, for the sake of diversity is not going to help in the success story of a company or an organisation.
Whatever way authorities and bodies couch their arguments, dismissing and disregarding applicants because they are white or male is discrimination. Running a quota system is discrimination. Positive discrimination is still discrimination. Bestowing fancy job titles and handing out keys to the boardroom and a swanky office, based on sex or race, is discrimination.
The one absolute that discrimination delivers is that it does not end well.
Image of imagined boardroom meeting by Monkey Business from Adobe Stock.