back to article Skin colour's irrelevant. Just hire competent folk on their merits, FFS

I note from a technical publication of repute that Microsoft has announced that marriage equality is a fundamental and core value for the company itself. To which, OK, great, and why not? As I pointed out previously, “taste” discrimination against people because of anything other than their working skills is a costly endeavour …

  1. EssEll

    Positive discrimination ...

    ... is still just that - discrimination. However, in some quarters it is still a cultural change to (for example) encourage organisations to recruit according to skills and merit rather than sex or colour. We need to change that mindset, which is WAY harder than changing Microsoft's hiring policy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Positive discrimination ...

      You also need the applicants in the first place.

      We are constantly looking for people, but until now, we have 2 Turks, the rest are of North European stock. Why? Because only 2 Turks have applied here and nobody from another minority has applied to work here at all.

      But we are relatively rural based and immigrants are few and far between.

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: Positive discrimination ...

        AC, you forgot to mention that you're the local KKK branch.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Positive discrimination ...

          No I didn't. I am one of the few immigrants, although I am "North European" stock...

  2. Chris Miller

    Here is the PC forecast

    Issued by MiniTruth 0900Z:

    "People of colour" - good; moving towards broad sunlit uplands.

    "Coloured people" - doubleplus ungood; expect severe Twitterstorm, public humiliation to follow.

    Our next bulletin will be at 1200Z

    1. RyokuMas Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: Here is the PC forecast

      ... as broadcast on your Samsung telescreen.

    2. Frederic Bloggs

      Re: Here is the PC forecast

      But, but.. What has the PC forecast to say on "Melanin Enhanced, Normal or Depleted"?

      I think we should be told.

      1. anonymousI

        Re: Here is the PC forecast

        But there's no such thing as the diversity unenhanced concept "Normal".

        Everything is equal to everything else, remember.

    3. fruitoftheloon

      @Chris Miller: Re: Here is the PC forecast


      On a similar notion, if I were to have a discussion with persons who have a darker skin tone than myself, I wonder if I were to label myself as a 'person without colour', would they be offended?

      Ironically, quite a bit of me literally has no skin pigment, but when fully dressed it is not at all obvious...

      It's a funny old world nowadays...


      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: @Chris Miller: Here is the PC forecast

        >It's a funny old world nowadays...

        What's funnier is that white is a combination of colours, while black is the absence of colour.

        Or so my spinning colour-wheel-on-a-rubber-band seems to indicate.

  3. dan1980

    "My own reaction is that if those whitebread brocoders (is that right? - Vulture Central's backroom gremlins) can create something that appeals to people of colour, then that rather explodes the argument that only people of colour can divine and then service the desires of people of colour."

    On one hand - you are 100% correct: Competence should be the only measure.

    On the other, you are somewhat less correct, because the simple truth is that people just don't want to feel like they are in the minority.

    That's not to say that that isn't a relic of a tribal past that, despite all our genius, is still only about 1/30th of the distance to our (apparently) recognisably 'human' beginnings. It is such a relic but it's a fact and companies know that thus allow it to influence some of their decisions.

    1. Stuart 22

      "On one hand - you are 100% correct: Competence should be the only measure."

      Yes, but when the apparent result is 100% white or 100% men or both then you have to ask some deep questions like is the access to competence equally open to all? Or is there something about your image which discourages applications from others?

      If you suspect either do you just close your eyes to the issue or try and do something about it? - which is usually some form of positive discrimination which if successful is in the long term is beneficial to all. The object, of course, being to eliminate the future need for considering positive discrimination.

      This has nothing to do with quotas. That is just unthinkingly bad.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        May have nothing to do with your image

        It may have to do with access to places where you obtain competence (i.e. universities or those companies Twitter likes to poach from)

        And further down, interest level to go to those universities and study Comp Sci, or get a job out of school from the companies Twitter likes to poach from.

        I imagine it is similar to the gender "bias" in STEM. Girls have nearly as high interest in boys in science and math in early grade school, but by middle school the numbers are very different. What causes that? Are the teachers discouraging them? Maybe. Are their friends or even parents discouraging them? Quite possibly. Is there something in the genetic/chemical makeup of female brains that causes this to occur due to puberty? That is a question that isn't allowed to be asked, because it would lead to acceptance of gender imbalance in STEM.

        For race a lot of it is likely tried to socioeconomic conditions. If you're poor your parents can't buy you your own computer. If your everyone around you basically says the way to make it is to be a great athlete, you will spend some of your younger years pursuing that until it eventually becomes clear you will never play for the NBA or NFL. By that time it is more difficult to catch up with those who didn't chase those dreams...

      2. P. Lee Silver badge

        >Competence should be the only measure.

        That can be hard to measure.

        Would you take someone who is the best coder, but has a rubbish work-ethic? How about someone who is a great powershell wielder, but constantly picks fights with or demeans their colleagues?

        Some companies thrive on a competitive culture, while others value cooperation. Do you pick the person who will strengthen the team cohesion with a drink down at the pub after work, or someone with an extra year's accounting experience? A good cultural fit can easily outweigh a slight edge in skills or knowledge in terms of importance. That creates a lot of grey areas, especially as people generally feel comfortable with other people who are like them. Native communities tend to hire from their own, immigrant communities tend to hire from their own.

        Sometimes, a stick is needed to get people out of their comfort zones if "cultural fit" has taken too great a role. At other times, an incompetent team needs to have someone who can demonstrate and teach excellence.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Quote from an interview

    I still vividly remember an interview from a while back. CTO of said company: "First, let me make it clear. We discriminate and we are proud of it. We discriminate against STUPID people".

    That is as far as discrimination and positive action goes.

    As far as Microsoft's call for "marriage equality" they are just having a publicity W*NK. I will believe they mean what they say the day when their lobbying arm will call all the congresscritters they have been greasing for so long to change the law so that the marriage of their slave H1B labour is treated as equal, not as "wife of a slave".

    Difference between the wife of slave and a non-slave and what is the true indication that a slave is a slave?

    The slave's wife is assigned by a congress decree to 5 years of house labour - Kinder, Kuche, Kirche (just the Puritanic equivalent of full burkha). IT IS UNEQUAL AND NOT A HUMAN BEING WITH ALL RIGHTS (as per the UN convention of these) BY US LAW. End of story. So if they reall mean it, they should start by making it equal for all those guys they imported on H1B.

    Until then, it is just another Micro and Soft W*nk.

    1. dogged

      Re: Quote from an interview

      wtf was that?

      You seem to be a very angry person, AC. What are these slaves you're talking about? I thought (given context) that the statement meant MS is fine about being married or not and they can marry their own gender or a different one (was that PC? I can't even tell anymore) as they so choose.

      Are you Margaret Atwood? Or just mental?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Quote from an interview

        Are you Margaret Atwood? Or just mental?

        No, I just do not like hypocritical w*nkers. If Microsoft is true about Marriage Equality, it should start with asking for human rights to be offered to the spouses of the H1B part of its workforce.

        As they do not have them - read the definition of the H4 visa. By the way, while the Obama administration has recently shown some sense on it: , the congresscritters continue to insist on the 5 year mandatory burkha treatment and most importantly NOT A SINGLE tech company (Microsoft included) is lobbying for this.

        1. dogged

          Re: Quote from an interview

          in situations where the average person is under financial strain, advocating a relaxation of immigration laws is guaranteed to be wildly unpopular. MS already have an Indian CEO and I suspect their board would start to be concerned about the sheer number of dumbfuck rednecks in the USA who would take violent offence to such lobbying.

          Or the slating that MS would get in (currently Republican) Congress.

          Meanwhile down in Dixie -

          Well sheeeeeeeee-it, boy. Micra-soft be importin' more of them there brown fellers and their muslamic womenfolk? I say we go buy from Apple. The Cook feller may be queer but at least he's a Merrican queer".

          while any economist who has ever looked at the figures involved supports open immigration policies, the public do not and the disgusting perversions they elect to represent them view immigration as a handy thing to rabble-rouse about. Nothing gets the voters to love you like a lynching.

          Calling Microsoft "wankers" for obeying the law seems a little extreme, unless you have a personal undisclosed interest in this.

    2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Quote from an interview

      Tim might say that given that the Cap on H1B's has been reached continuously for the last few years then it indicates many people are actively choosing being a H1B 'slave' to working elsewhere.

      Nice rant btw.

  5. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    How to accurately measure diversity?

    Personally, whenever I have to fill in a form with ethnic questions I tend to tick something at random. Okay, to you I may LOOK like a white British person, but who are you to tell me what my ethnic origin is? Inside I really, really feel Caribbean (or possibly Inuit)

    I'd take the results of any ethnic origin survey with a large pinch of salt...

    1. theOtherJT

      Re: How to accurately measure diversity?

      I've just been refusing to answer the bloody things for years. Unless I'm going in for medical treatment - where it is plausible that my ethnic background might actually make some sort of difference - it's completely irrelevant and I'm not playing.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How to accurately measure diversity?

      I don't answer ethnic surveys because it's apparently perfectly fine to discriminate against my ethnicity, to mock my ethnicity on prime time TV and to use racial jibes in mainstream feature films, but only about my ethnicity.

      You have to say "people of colour" because somebody with money cares about that but "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding" is fine, have a good laugh and sneer away.

      The worst bit is that they're not even fucking gypsies.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How to accurately measure diversity?

      I tend to tick "Other", or "Decline". Mainly because the ethnic categories seem utterly confused about what they are supposed to be - they're typically a mishmash of genetic, nationality, and cultural criteria which seem largely poorly organized or structured (at least to me). If they made them a little more coherent - and therefore, I feel, useful - I might be more inclined to tick boxes in a more useful manner. Because I don't usually feel that the the box I presumably "should" tick really represents me at all.

      1. Ossi

        Re: How to accurately measure diversity?

        Have you noticed every time you go to hospital, before any medical professional has seen you, you have to fill in the damn diversity form? This happened to me even when I was covered in blood after one of the good burghers of leafy Walthamstow had decided to administer a beer bottle to the back of my head. It completely defeats me how this information is useful. Are they going to demand more injured Chinese or something? How much money is spent on collecting this information and could, possibly, the NHS have better things to spend it on?

        If the data are really useful (if), then do some sampling occasionally.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How to accurately measure diversity?

          While not relevant to every medical issue, your ethnic background predisposes you to certain conditions. Knowing which conditions a patient has a genetic predisposition to can be extremely important in making sure you get diagnosed and treated quickly and effectively.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: How to accurately measure diversity?

            Yes WHITE treatment fast and good.

            NOT WHITE not so fast or so good.

            1. Ossi

              Re: How to accurately measure diversity?

              "Yes WHITE treatment fast and good.

              NOT WHITE not so fast or so good."

              Very good - painting the whole NHS as racist.

          2. This post has been deleted by its author

          3. Ossi

            Re: How to accurately measure diversity?

            "While not relevant to every medical issue, your ethnic background predisposes you to certain conditions. Knowing which conditions a patient has a genetic predisposition to can be extremely important in making sure you get diagnosed and treated quickly and effectively."

            I appreciate that, and I can see how it would be useful. Curious then that the form wasn't designed for that purpose, and it seems that separate clinical data are kept:



            [join 2 parts together]

          4. Oninoshiko

            Re: How to accurately measure diversity?

            "While not relevant to every medical issue, your ethnic background predisposes you to certain conditions. Knowing which conditions a patient has a genetic predisposition to can be extremely important in making sure you get diagnosed and treated quickly and effectively."

            I'm pretty sure "had beer bottle broken over the back of the head in the pub" is not one of the conditions that knowing your race really helps much in diagnosing...

      2. John H Woods

        Ethnic Origin:

        African --- aren't we all?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Ethnic Origin:

          Likewise under "place of birth" I always put "sprang fully formed form the forehead of Zeus", and wait for the resulting religous discrimination

    4. Philip Lewis

      Re: How to accurately measure diversity?


  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amen, but where is our voice ?

    The problem is that the vast majority of men and women of all races realise that you are correct, but our views are not heard.

    We have no Gender Studies courses, no silly bints writing in the Guardian, no penalizing boys.

    We need to organise to fight all discrimination, from Labour's women-only shortlists to old-school racists, but there is no-where for us to go.

    1. Wade Burchette Silver badge

      Re: Amen, but where is our voice ?

      In today's politically correct world, it is okay to be sexist, so long as you are not a male. And it is okay to be racist, so long as you are not white (or should I say Caucasian).

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Amen, but where is our voice ?

        You should say "White British/Irish", as discriminating against other whites, including "White Irish Traveller" is not PC.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows

    This is the 2nd MLP related image I've seen on The Register.

    Is one of El Regs editors a secret brony?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pink fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows

      GreaseMonkey and Firefox, no pesky images

    2. MJI Silver badge

      Re: MLP?

      No idea what that stands for.

      Mango Lettuce Peanut?

      Major League Penguin?

      Microscopic Little People?

      1. DanDanDan

        Re: MLP?

        My little pony

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: MLP?

          I prefer mine!

          1. DanDanDan

            Re: MLP?

            FWIW me too. Especially Major League Penguin

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: MLP?

          God god I wish Season 5 would start already!

  8. Adolph Clickbait

    Perhaps interviews need to be blinded (ala "the Voice")

    (not interviewers)

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Three considerations

    1. Why should MS (or Google, F/B, Twits or any other business) know what the composition of their workforce is in terms of race, sexuality or anything else? It shouldn't be an attribute on their staff database. Male/female might reasonably be if it's affected by different legislated retirement ages but that's that the only good reason to gather that information.

    2. Age still seems to be a PC-allowable basis for discrimination.

    3. What proportion of African ancestry is required to be classed as $terminology-of-choice as opposed to white? I ask partly because there are occasional findings of African Y-chromosome haplotypes in English families with no clear explanation.

    1. John Savard Silver badge

      Re: Three considerations

      In the United States, at one time all it took was one sixty-fourth part of black ancestry to be classified as officially black.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Something Dawkins said

    in "The Ancestors Tale"

    I must at this point reiterate my strong objection to being asked to fill in forms in which I have to tick a box labelling my ‘race’ or ‘ethnicity’, and voice my strong support for Lewontin's statement that racial classification can be actively destructive of social and human relations — especially when people use racial classification as a way of treating people differently, whether through negative or positive discrimination. To tie a racial label to somebody is informative in the sense that it tells you more than one thing about them. It might reduce your uncertainty about the colour of their hair, the colour of their skin, the straightness of their hair, the shape of their eye, the shape of their nose and how tall they are. But there is no reason to suppose that it tells you anything about how well-qualified they are for a job. And even in the unlikely event that it did reduce your statistical uncertainty about their likely suitability for some particular job, it would still be wicked to use racial labels as a basis for discrimination when hiring somebody. Choose on the basis of ability, and if, having done so, you end up with an all-black sprinting team, so be it. You have not practised racial discrimination in arriving at this conclusion.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I still want to know

    Why it's ok to say "a person of color", but it's offensive to say "a colored person" - go figure...

    But as regards ignoring our "differences" in favour of the importance of the rich/poor wealth divide, isn't it true that the wealth divide is mostly down to what color you are?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I still want to know

      The NAACP can't seem to decide - in 2008 they thought it was OK for Lohan to use it, however Mr Cumberbatch isn't allowed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I still want to know

        So are the NAACP being sexist by allowing Ms Lohan to use it but not Mr Cumberbatch?

        1. Oninoshiko

          Re: I still want to know

          The "National Association for the Advancement of Colored People" has it in their name, FFS. Can't be THAT racist.

  12. BenR

    The only problem is...

    I agree with this entirely. The only basis for discrimination in employment should be the ability to perform the job tasks in question. (And, as an aside, it should be far easier to be rid of someone who is NOT capable of doing their job than it currently seems to be in the UK at least. I understand the provisions for "at-will" employment in the US makes this a lot easier.)

    The only problem you have to watch for is that you don't get into a self-fulfilling prophecy loop. As in, the only people you can interview for $tech_coding_job are men, because men are the only gender who have the experience at the level required, hence no women apply, and so on down the line until you reach the point we are currently at, where certain educational courses are themselves wholly unrepresentative because of the future job prospects.

    Certainly in my field, this isn't because of any kind of in-built bias or residual mysogeny (not that I've witnessed or experienced at least), but more to do with the proportions of applicants we get.

    There is of course the age-old argument that you don't see equality drives in female-dominated professions. I don't see the DfE harping on about a 50/50 split for nursery and primary school teachers, and nor do I see the NHS / DfH going on about nursing...

    1. Rande Knight

      Re: The only problem is...

      Apparently the NHS _is_ going on about needing more male nurses. Because they need them to lift heavy objects.

      I think they just need to get some powered exosuits so that women can lift things too. And kill Alien Queens out to infect us with their babies.

      DfE would like to have more male teachers - as long as they are provably not males that like children a little too much or even likely to be accused of such. I can understand men not wanting to do it as even an accusation that's not proven false will ruin their career.

      1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: The only problem is...

        "Because they need them to lift heavy objects."

        They are patients or clients, never objects.

        Will the objectification never stop?

    2. DreadPirateRobot

      Re: The only problem is...

      Actually, there is a drive for more male teachers in Primary education. I trained as a Secondary teacher and was a strong drive to recruit male teachers for Primary education from the DfE et al. It (Primary Education) was not really the best place to be if I wanted to continue teaching Physics so I continued in Secondary for the whole 1 year my PGCE took before jumping ship to IT.

      This was in the last 3 years.

    3. MonkeyCee Silver badge

      Re: The only problem is...

      I'll second the comments regarding positive discrimination for men in teaching and nursing roles.

      In teaching it usually means that if you're a guy you can usually get a management position a lot quicker, get your pick of after school BS activities and the leadership team will jump through hoops to keep you onboard. If your subject is a flavor of STEM, then you get the same treatment only amplified.

      Of course, you have to put up with making sure you can't ever be accused of being a sex pest, get constant training and awareness increasing about not being a sex pest, and having pretty much every male parent suggest that you might be a sex pest. I'm not bitter about my time working (non-teaching) in a school, oh no.

      There are a few scientific fields where it seems like a switch got thrown 30 years ago, and no more men entered the profession. I like to think of them a seahorse companies/departments.

      1. BenR

        Re: The only problem is...

        I stand corrected.

        I work in neither field personally, so I have no idea. Thanks for letting me know.

  13. Desk Jockey

    Societal failure

    The biggest problem for business in being ethnically diverse is that they have to operate in an environment where society and governments have failed to properly ensure the workforce is ethically diverse. If the government has failed to ensure that everyone is guaranteed a good standard of education, for example predominantly black areas not having high quality schools, then a company recruiting on merit and requiring a workforce with decent education will hardly have any black employees unless they drop standards as part of a positive discrimination policy which will lead to disaster.

    Ensure that everyone has the same access to decent education, opportunities and the same rights as each other and over time the numbers will start to match. Want to stop women being discriminated against? Well give men the exact same paternity rights and make it culturally acceptable for them to take it and after a while businesses have no financial incentive to pick a man over a woman at an interview. Likewise, any gay, black, asian, jewish or whatever, if they meet the job specs and all other things being equal, they stand just as good a chance of being picked by a business that genuinely wants good people.

    No well meaning "do not discriminate" policy by a company will fix this problem although it can ensure that the problem is not made worse by having things like "macho teams".

    1. tesmith47

      Re: Societal failure

      you are mostly correct, but the problem still is that because of past history white men are the ones doing the choosing and sometimes biases come into effect .

      I agree that there is a social issue that really is not being addressed, .

  14. Kevin Johnston

    For once the French got it right

    to paraphrase...

    There is little difference between men and women.....vive la difference

  15. Esme

    Well, I never

    First time I've ever agreed 100% with Worstall. And me a green-tinged pinko testosterone-challenged type, an'all!

    1. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge

      Re: Well, I never

      Yes. It's an odd feeling isn't it. But I've always categorised Tim as a David Starkey type. Quite annoying at times, but asking good questions. Argue with facts and logic, not prejudice.

  16. Zog_but_not_the_first Silver badge

    {Scratches head}

    I honestly can't see the problem selecting on the basis of the ability to do the job.

    1. tesmith47

      Re: {Scratches head}

      i accept that you are being honest, but one question for you, have you ever discovered (after a failed interview) that you have been discriminated against because yo are "white"?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Missing it?

    From the article:

    "My point is that a diversity of gender, melanin enhancement or sexuality isn't actually a requirement to be able to make a product that a diverse world wants to buy."

    That sounds plausible. Anyway, it is also irrelevant.

    In corporate experience terms, I once worked for a company that insisted on diversity well before it was fashionable. I remember counting the people sat around the dinner table once: 19 people, 23 nationalities, 30-odd languages spoken. This was a random work location, not especially diverse.

    Did that make the company produce better products? Probably not. But it did cause the company to have an impressive grasp of nearly any market on Earth in which we operated or could operate, and the local knowledge and contacts to keep things going smooth. It also gave us a unique experience and understanding of cultural and practical differences and, crucially, commonalities. However, the most important advantage was extrinsic: they didn't do it because they had to but because they could, and it showed what could indeed be done, dispelling stereotypes, and disproving preconceptions.

    It also provided for some cheap fun on occasion, such as when we had a Norwegian Inuit and a fair-skinned Filipino in my team, and people kept confusing them both.

  18. John Savard Silver badge

    Not Enough

    Just hiring on skills and merit instead of color sounds like it should be enough. But practical experience in the United States shows that it is not. Black people are somewhat less likely than white people to have the right pieces of paper when they are capable of doing a job. Furthermore, they're quite a bit less likely to have the right training to make them qualified for a job even when they have the same level of innate talent and ability for the job as a white person.

    Is affirmative action really the right tool, though? Should employers, rather than the government, be expected to make up for prior discrimination black people have suffered in educational opportunities? That is a legitimate question, but even so, in any case the question is still more complicated than presented here.

  19. moiety

    Everyone's a little bit racist.

    Monkey genes. Different could possibly be dangerous (unknowable motivations, possibility of new and exciting diseases etc), so racism makes a certain amount of biological sense.

    Personally, I put the effort to compensate in, so I hate everybody equally. Lawn. Off.

    1. dogged

      Or it could be that people who want there to be no racism are, bizarrely, likely to be racist.

      Just World Hypothesis.

      I found it quite interesting.

      1. moiety

        That was an interesting read. The thought occurs in that particular experiment that it might be "blue mud in the belly button" syndrome. Robert Heinlein said that if you ever found yourself in a society where everyone rubs blue mud in their belly buttons at intervals, you would be well advised to do the same, just as solemnly as everyone else (paraphrasing a bit there).

        To put it another way; white knights in meatspace run an excessively high risk of being stabbed.

        I'm not convinced about the conclusions of that experiment...if everyone around you is condoning torture, is it a bright move to be the first to poke your head over the parapet and decry "This is wrong!" On the one hand, that could be the pebble that starts the landslide of "Nopes" that gets it stopped. On the other hand, if you're reading the room wrong, you're in a roomful of people *condoning torture*, and you could be next if you piss them off by standing out.

  20. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    A good corporate metric

    Our west coast startup = 12 people 8 different countries of birth. Only 1 "native"

    Dev team 3 different N. European countries + Isreal + Russian + China

    QA Indian + Chinese. CFO our only "native"

    Strangely our customers in the city seem to have "picked the best of the best" management teams from people who all went to the same public school. the same university and the have same accent. Isn't statistical clustering strange?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hire well, and the diversity will sort itself out

    Hire cheaply, and the diversity might still sort itself out, albeit absent the results you were looking for. I'm amazed the UK tech business hasn't attracted more competent East Europeans. Perhaps the UK tech business has been hiring cheaply?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hire well, and the diversity will sort itself out

      Dunno, last place (a well known sat sports broadcaster) was stuffed with Romanians, Bulgarians, Czechs and Poles.

      Current place (financial services) has Croats, Hungarians, and a smattering of more western Europeans.

      In both cases about 50% Indian, mostly 1st gen, and the rest (a minority!) locals.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hire well, and the diversity will sort itself out

        > Romanians, Bulgarians, Czechs and Poles.

        > Current place (financial services) has Croats, Hungarians, and a smattering of more western Europeans.

        Out of the above, only two modern States would be considered Eastern European¹ with regard to their historical and cultural past.

        Unless you want to label Austria and Germany as East Europe.

        ¹ I am not assuming any perceived mildly pejorative connotation of the term, as often found in British media, only its use to refer to a geopolitical area.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hire well, and the diversity will sort itself out

          "Out of the above, only two modern States would be considered Eastern European¹ with regard to their historical and cultural past.

          Unless you want to label Austria and Germany as East Europe."

          I must admit, when I wrote about attracting competent East Europeans, I was thinking about any of the Warsaw Pact/former Soviet Union where they still teach maths properly!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Hire well, and the diversity will sort itself out

            > I must admit, when I wrote about attracting competent East Europeans, I was thinking about any of the Warsaw Pact/former Soviet Union

            Fair enough, people tend to do that even though it completely disregards anything but 50 of the last 70 years of history. However, don't call them Eastern Europeans if you want to get along with them.

            > where they still teach maths properly!

            Indeed they do. Had I studied there, I wouldn't have stood a chance in hell of graduating. :-S

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps Tim should study psychology a little more. In the real world, people find jobs via interviews - a highly subjective measure, rather than any kind of objective test.

    Generally, people find it easier to judge the intellectual abilities of people who are just like them. They also find it easier to get on with people who are just like them. This is the reason large companies end up introducing those large competency based ticksheets (which have their own issues associated with them). You'll get additional issues when you have an interview between people who are both speaking second languages.

    I mean *logically* (in Tim's world) Jim Crow couldn't have existed, since all those companies should have realised that they had more to gain from treating all their customers with dignity - in reality, it just so happened that some people felt they only had dignity if other people didn't.

    1. Tim Worstal

      Gary Becker's answer to this was interesting. He asserted that Jim Crow (the actual laws about it) existed precisely because in the absence of such laws then the market would gradually sort it out. Thus the racists passed the laws to make sure the market couldn't sort it out.

      1. Richard Gadsden

        He was also factually wrong about the laws.

        It wasn't the laws; it was the social pressure. The Jim Crow laws didn't relate to private businesses, or they just added criminal enforcement to private businesses. So, there was a law saying that it was a crime for a colored person to try to use a whites-only counter at a business. There wasn't a law requiring businesses to have whites-only counters.

        Most of the Jim Crow laws were about public facilities, like public toilets and water fountains and schools and so on, where the operation of those was governed by law, not by the policy decisions of private businesses.

        Of course, if you opened up a business that didn't have a whites-only counter, then white people didn't use your business. Or if they did, they got shunned as "n-word-lovers". That was how Jim Crow got enforced on private businesses, not by legal requirements.

  23. earl grey Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    marketing bacon at the synagogue ??

    Well, depends on how well you know your market... If it's reform; I've known some who had bacon all the time. Wouldn't expect the same from orthodox now...

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: marketing bacon at the synagogue ??

      Jewish senior manager at a former client decided to regard bacon butties as kosher.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: marketing bacon at the synagogue ??

        > senior manager at a former client decided to regard bacon butties as kosher.

        Seeing as ultimately¹ religion is a personal affair², if that is his honest belief, he is perfectly within his rights to do so.

        ¹ In the first instance is really more of a communal affair, which is why we have congregations (kehilot).

        ² In "non-organised" religions, the most notable counter-example of which is Catholicism. Being the most widespread religion in the world at this moment and the only religion many people have any sort of knowledge about, that seems to give people a number of misconceptions.

  24. Eric Olson

    Question for you, Tim...

    While I'm sure we all would love to hire on merit alone and live in a world where diversity is the town you're from rather than color, religion, gender, etc., how do you square your no less idyllic vision for the future with reality? Numerous fields, even those of supposedly liberal persuasion (like education), have demonstrated that when presented applications of identical qualifications, those selected for interview are predominantly male and white? And by identical, I mean the application or resume or academic paper is exactly the same other than the demographics like name, gender, or address.

    With that kind of subconscious exclusionary policy, how do resolve the issue so that results or merit is the only factor?

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Question for you, Tim...

      "With that kind of subconscious exclusionary policy, how do resolve the issue so that results or merit is the only factor?"

      Sounds like you need to start hiring the HR staff on merit. The rest will follow.

      1. Eric Olson

        Re: Question for you, Tim...

        Sounds like you need to start hiring the HR staff on merit. The rest will follow.

        Short of rewiring the human brain, that won't help. The problem isn't "We want the best", the issue is that we equate "the best" with "people who are just like me." For example, even if you were to wash away the demographics until it was time to do the actual interviews (a separate kettle of fish), there are so many other proxies that can be used (and are today). The university one received a degree from will quickly (and correctly) provide one with a high level of certainty as to the various boxes a person may or may not tick.

        That's not something you can solve through market forces or wishful thinking, which is what Tim seems to be proposing. Frankly, this smacks of, "I see too many issues and my ideology gets in the way of coming up with a solution, so I'm going to shut my eyes really tight and think of rainbows and kittens and butterflies."

        The question remains: How does Tim (or anyone else) propose that the best be hired regardless of the things that keep being from being hired today, even if they are the best?

    2. Davey1000

      Re: Question for you, Tim...

      Hmm its not just talent that candidates need, they also need diplomacy (the ability to tell white lies) A colleague told me years ago that he had tried to join the Royal Air Force. He had passed the medical OK and the reaction test (a joystick which enables one to drive an errant white spot back to the centre of a CRT) The interview went well too until near the end. "Do you like cricket?" the interviewer asked. "No" replied the candidate "I think its a boring game." Unfortunately that reply meant that it was Game Over for his chances of becoming a pilot. Take care!

      1. Brenda McViking

        Re: Question for you, Tim...

        Well, you would pick an occupation that has over 450 applicants for every place for that anecdote, wouldn't you.

        No offense, but he simply wasn't in the top 1% on the joystick. His inability to lie about liking cricket had nothing to do with it.

        If it was a corporate sales manager he was going for, with the same result on the other hand, that is a point well made.

    3. MJI Silver badge

      Re: Question for you, Tim...

      Interview time.

      You tend to pick people you can work with rather than people perfect on paper.

  25. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Only one part of Diversity counts...

    Back in the early 70's I worked for smallish defense firm as a tech writer. The "big guy" in the R&D department was "different"... a very mixed ancenstry, WWII vet, and just a tad bit on charming side of whacko. I spent many a pleasant hour in his office talking while writing up his latest project.

    Anyway, long story short... we were showing some DoD types the facility and one was obviously an HR type (or wannabee) and made a comment as we passed the "big guy's" office. He was sitting staring at chalkboard covered in diagrams and equations, chalk in hand, and wearing a samurai suit. The HR person made the comment: "Wow. I bet he fills a lot of the diversity quotas.". To which my boss replied.. "Only one, actually. He's brilliant and has more patents than the rest of the team combined. But brilliant isn't on the government form.".

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    France Positive Discrimination

    I recently heard through a reliable source that a certain French engineering* company has sent out an edict that if there are any females being interviewed for a job then they must be offered the job over all other candidates no matter the qualification or skill levels.

    *Let's leave it vague for now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: France Positive Discrimination

      > I recently heard through a reliable source that a certain French engineering* company [....]

      Plausible. I have first hand knowledge of a certain French engineering company (probably a different one) in which the middle managers of the technical teams refused to hire any women on the basis that they were... women.

      I pondered over the week-end following this revelation (said very casually, like nothing at all was wrong with it) whether to report this to the courts, but seeing as it was only hearsay (in the British legal sense) and this is a rather influential company, in all likelihood this would have got nowhere.

      I did however stop recommending good candidates (of any gender) to that company and I did warn any of my intellectually capable colleagues (of any gender) not to go there. I believe their inability to hire two key people based on my advice to those people and the ensuing lack of sufficient talent led to the sinking of at least one major project. No regrets whatsoever.

  27. fortran

    Trace components of society?

    And I am not talking about what NSA, GCHQ or whatever alphabet soup is doing.

    There are economic and political reasons to deal with issues involving groups constituting between about 5 to 70% of the population. If you belong to a group that is smaller than that, it is unlikely there is either an economic or political benefit to fixing any problems.

    So much of the hiring process that I have seen, has almost nothing to do with determining competency. There is a large component of the hiring process which assumes the applicant is in the major mode of the multi-dimensional distribution of human quality, and is not too far from the mode (mean, median).

    If you belong to a trace element of society (less than 5%), and are not in the mainstream mode, it is difficult to find a way to let your competence be known so that you can find work.

    1. Davey1000

      Re: Trace components of society?

      For some their key to success is the golf club. Having a mentor at Head Office can also work wonders. Best of all as far as I know is the funny handshake club.

      As one guide to employment book states, the worst bar to getting a job is having a country seat.

  28. Davey1000

    The Term "People of Color" is Incorrect

    Many years ago the writer was sent on a "Colour Course" as part of his training in Broadcast Engineering. (The early televisions were monochrome AKA black & white) Colour Television transmissions in the UK started in about 1969 and it was considered that engineering staff needed to be updated. It was an excellent course with excellent equipment one item of which was a Colorimeter (a device which measures colour in terms of its Red, Green and Blue content, the so-called colour vectors. Towards the end of the course, people decided to measure the colour of their own skin and the results were quite astonishing. There was a dark skinned person on the course and to everyone's amazement the ratios of Red, Green and Blue in his skin tones were identical to those of a white man! The ONLY difference was in the Luminance. This indicates that referring to a person as "coloured" is scientifically incorrect because they are merely dark.

    Note that quite a few white people have the ability to tan incredibly well and in some jurisdictions this can cause problems. I heard about a white English engineer who had to do some work in South Africa but with the strong sunshine he turned brown. Allegedly the man went ballistic when the bus driver told him to sit at the back of the bus but as the old saying goes "Travel broadens the mind."

    1. tesmith47

      Re: The Term "People of Color" is Incorrect

      yep, the social construct of "WHITNESS" can often seem ludicrous

  29. tesmith47

    "However, there's one part of the pro-diversity business case that seems to me to be less than conclusively proven. And that's the one that insists that diversity among the workforce is required to be able to deal with diversity among the customer base. I really just don't get that at all."


    yeah i know what you mean!!!!

  30. AsherGoldbergstein

    How will women and minorities get into IT if the requirement is competency? You'll need to go back to the drawing board on this one friend.

  31. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    Sounds good...

    ...Skin colour's irrelevant. Just hire competent folk on their merits, FFS...

    It's just that people still don't want to hire people older than 50....

  32. Brian Allan 1

    Hire the best... End of story!

    Simple hire the best person(s) for the position and forget the rest!

    Male/female/other, black/white/orange, old/young makes no difference if that person is the best available.

    1. tesmith47

      Re: Hire the best... End of story!

      because no one in hr or hiring has any BIASES OF ANY SORT!!!!

  33. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

    Walter Benn Michaels

    While I'll refrain from engaging in the larger debate,1 I was pleased to see Tim's citation of Michaels' The Trouble with Diversity. I haven't read that one yet myself, and I certainly don't always agree with Michaels2. But I've been reading him since the days of "Against Theory" and "The Contracted Heart", I've seen him present a few times, and I had the opportunity to chat with him in person once.3

    He's a very smart guy and very rigorous thinker whose career has mostly consisted of making very careful, well-developed arguments against commonplace notions in literary studies. He's always been controversial and certainly is not well-liked by many, but even most of his opponents seem to admit (however grudgingly) that he's a worthy adversary. He's one of my favorite people to disagree with.

    1Because I've heard everything y'all have to say before from my college-composition students, ad nauseum. I'll tune in again when I see some evidence of a discussion informed by the past couple centuries of identity theory.

    2Indeed I had a lengthy section arguing against one of his more famous theses in my dissertation.

    3At Miami University in the mid-1990s, when Barry Chabot invited him to give a talk, not long after the publication of Our America.

  34. Christopher Edwards


    What a sad article and sad debate this really is.

    1. tesmith47

      Re: Sigh.

      in what sense is it sad,? that there is still a problem?

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In Television Engineering terms there is really no difference in the skin colour of different people from different parts of the world. "Colour" being the ratios of the Red, Green and Blue vectors as measured with a colorimeter. The big difference is in the Luminance. In skin types white, yellow, brown and black the ratios of R,G,B are the same! Technically the US term "colored" is IMHO a tremendous howler as the correct term should be "dark".

    I did see a coloured person once. He was a young man who had had far too much to drink and his face had turned to a pastel shade of green! Shortly afterwards he vomited over the club's carpet. The club steward was not amused and he resigned shortly afterwards.

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