Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Cost of Diversity

Tonight I was at a gathering that included a former student of mine, currently an Air Force Academy cadet.

He told me that he had applied for, and had earned, a position as Squadron Commander for next year. It's a very responsible, prestigious, honored assignment at the Academy, as there are only 40 squadrons. He was chosen, his name put on next year's list of commanders, and the list "sent up".

He also told me that the list of squadron commanders for next year contained 35 or 36 white males, and that to make the list more "diverse" he had been removed from the list and replaced by a woman--who hadn't even applied for the position. He'll take his position as Squadron Operations Officer, a 2nd in command.

He wasn't denied this position because of anything he did. He was denied it solely based on his sex. He was denied it not based on what he's done, but on who he is.

He was told all of this by a racial/gender-minority lieutenant colonel, who also told him that one of the air force high mucky-mucks had said that diversity is good for leadership. You know what else is good for leadership? Having leaders who demonstrate leadership.

There is a cost to these equal opportunity/affirmative action programs--and sadly, this young man seems to be bearing much more than his share of that cost.

11 comments:

Thorndog said...

*sigh*......Air Force...

Ellen K said...

It's a standard practice in our society to make things appear to be diverse simply for the sake of diversity. Never mind excellence or high standards, people will be placed in positions of authority based on this ridiculous need to pander to the appearance of fairness rather than actual fairness. My husband works in the communications industry. In order to get government contracts on any level, small companies have to demonstrate diversity. So what happens? Mom and Pop small businesses name Mom as the owner and operator simply to be able to bid on the contracts.

Marbel said...

Well, who cares, since he's just a white guy, right? And I'm sure she's a much better fit, representing diversity and all - even though she didn't want the job.

Pitiful, just pitiful.

Anonymous said...

Although I am usually the last to suggest a lawsuit, it sure seems appropriate here. Probably be hard to prove though.

Law and Order Teacher said...

Anytime you use some other measure besides performance to promote/retain/hire people this is what happens. What a shame for this young man. My question then becomes, what kind of a leader will this young lady be? Will her unwillingness for command be a hinderance later in her career? Leadership, as you know, is much tougher under fire and requires exceptional skill. This isn't just discrimination, it's dangerous.

Darren said...

I hope the young woman rises to the occasion--her subordinates deserve nothing less.

Loni said...

What exactly is the application process for this position? If getting you're name on the list requires recommendations from faculty/higher-ranked officers at the Academy, I am surprised that more women were not considered in the first place. Women are outnumbered by men, but if 35 out of 40 positions were filled by white men at a school with overall a much deeper pool of students both ethnically and genderwise, I would think that the initial choosing of candidates was not particularly fair. If this is the case, then passing up the officer you speak of may have actually been correcting sexism, something which, given the history of the armed forces as traditionally belonging to men, I would not be shocked to discover.

Darren said...

Loni, even if I accepted the "correcting past wrongs" argument, which I don't, it's hard to say this situation is fair to the person who was rejected--after being approved for the slot, I might add--solely because he has testosterone.

Darren said...

By the way, how's school going? =)

Loni said...

I'm arguing that the selection and approval itself may have been tainted by continued attitudes in the upper levels of the Academy that this leadership position is meant for a man. As far as "correcting past wrongs," yes, women and minorities have historically been given the shaft in the military (My grandfather remembers that during WWII, the only jobs held by black men on his submarine were jobs in the kitchen). For a woman in the Air Force, the position in question seems unattainable for two reasons: the fact that women rarely have ever held it (past wrongs) and the fact that sexist attitudes persist that she shouldn't hold it (present wrongs). Equal Opportunity isn't about apologizing to one generation for what happened to another; it's about recognizing that something like slavery or in this case, women's legacy as homemakers rather than professionals, continues to take it's toll. These past injustices combined with sexist and racist leanings of decision makers today have a real effect on where women stand, and not just in the Military.

Oh, and school's over, I did really well. I'll try to drop in on you sometime in the next week or so. :D

Pete said...

Nothing like a little reverse discrimination, eh, Loni?

Next time you're asked if you got the position because you were the best person, or merely the best woman; or have your leadership questioned as a "token," you remember this.

This is why I only go to white, male doctors and such(And I am American Indian, BTW). At least I know they *earned* their degrees, and didn't get "race" or "gender normed" upwards.

Oh - yes. I do pass for white. Leftists have had no use for mme since I decline to identify as a minority - but then again, I am sure I earned my degree, rather than take the easy route.