While “pale, male, and stale” is a catchy paean for those apex fallacy-afflicted gender warriors and their itchy quota fingers, it does tend to belie the straight-up racism and sexism inherent in the motives of those who push for more “diversity” in corporate boards. As Exhibit A, I give you how Facebook’s all-male board has recently drawn the ire of the diversity brigade:
Most of Facebook Inc. (FB)’s more than 800 million users are women. You wouldn’t know it from looking at the board, whose seven directors are all men.
“We’re long past having to defend or explain why women should be on boards, given all the data that shows how companies with female as well as male directors perform better,” said Anne Mulcahy, former chairman and chief executive officer of Xerox Corp. and a director at Johnson & Johnson Co., Target Corp. and Washington Post Co. “It’s unfortunate when companies with a large percentage of women constituents don’t reflect that in their boardrooms.” A Catalyst survey of Fortune 500 companies found that those with three or more female directors outperformed those with fewer between 2005 and 2009, achieving on average 43 percent better return on equity. As Facebook prepares to raise $5 billion in an initial public offering, the composition of its board shows its business strategy is faulty, said Susan Stautberg, co-founder of New York-based Women Corporate Directors, which promotes female board membership.
“It doesn’t make sense for a company that claims to be so forward looking to not have any women directors,” she said. “If they just have an old boy’s network in the boardroom, they won’t have access to diverse ideas and strategies.”
The other directors are Donald E. Graham, chairman and CEO of The Washington Post Co.; venture capitalist Marc Andreesen, co-founder of Netscape Communications Corp., James W. Breyer, CEO of Breyer Capital; Peter A. Thiel, co-founder of Palantir Technologies Inc. and a fund manager at Clarium Capital LLC; Reed Hastings, chairman and CEO of Netflix Inc.; and Erskine B. Bowles, president emeritus of University of North Carolina.
[Facebook's board is] drawn largely from the male investor community as is often the case at Silicon Valley start-ups, said Mulcahy, who groomed Ursula Burns to succeed her at Xerox, where four of 11 directors are women. As Facebook and other young companies mature, “they need to break out of this pattern and have more diverse representation,” said Mulcahy, who is chairman of Save the Children Inc. “And women also need to be better represented in the private equity industry.”
I’ll get to the sexism/racism inherent in this passage in a moment, but first, permit me to address Ms. Mulcahy’s claim that “we’re long past having to defend or explain” the business case for female representation on corporate boards. A quick google of “women corporate boards” yields a slew of various economic and law journal hits in support of greater female representation in corporate governance. Two noteworthy documents in support of bolstering female representation on corporate boards include this one by McKinsey & Company, a company dedicated to promoting diversity in management and corporate performance, and this one by Lord Davies, a former Labour MP who has also taken a personal interest in boosting female representation on corporate boards. Both reports cite the greater return on equity of companies that have women on their boards (e.g., 41% better RoE, 56% higher EBIT margin in the McKinsey study), as opposed to companies with male-only boards. Both reports also suggest ameliorative measures to boost female representation on corporate boards, to include set-asides, special processes to access, select, groom, and promote female managers. The Davies report, apparently impatient with the glacial pace of increases in female participation on boards, even goes as far as suggesting quotas:
All Chairmen of FTSE 350 companies should set out the percentage of women they aim to have on their boards in 2013 and 2015. FTSE 100 boards should aim for a minimum of 25% female representation by 2015…
The Financial Reporting Council should amend the UK Corporate Governance Code to require listed companies to establish a policy concerning boardroom diversity, including measurable objectives for implementing the policy, and disclose annually a summary of the policy and the progress made in achieving the objectives.
So then. The mask is off, and equality of opportunity isn’t enough. Those old-boys-clubs must be, well, clubbed over the head and forced to permit women into their li’l rascals treehouses. But is Ms. Mulcahy’s vaunted business case that clear?
The short answer is no. Here’s why: First, the entire dataset is suspect because the research presented in these reports was conducted by organizations and individuals potentially biased in favor of promoting the phenomenon they were measuring.
Second, just as in the “pay gap” myth, which pivots around the ludicrous idea that companies in a dog-eat-dog competitive marketplace sacrifice profitability to maintain more-expensive-yet-equally-skilled men on the payroll, if sexual diversity is such a slam-dunk driver of profitability, why aren’t companies jamming women into their boards and into their management ranks like crazy?
Third, there is the problem of causality, in that the direction of causality may be reversed. We are told that companies with women on their boards outperform those without. But consider this: Perhaps it is true that companies with women on the boards are large and successful enough to afford women on their board and withstand the costs of female preferences and set-asides in hiring and selection processes in their company? Or maybe that interested, available, and sufficiently successful female board members are such rare birds that only the most successful companies can attract them? Or perhaps that more successful companies seek female board members and female middle- and upper-managers as talismans to ward off brand-destroying scrutiny by government regulators and social grievance advocacy groups?
Fourth, could it be that the entire diversity meme, usually pushed as a means to avoid groupthink among staid, calcified corporate boards populated by silver-haired white men, is itself groupthink on a massive, societal scale?
Our relatively small sample of interviews (36) provides no evidence of the emergence of what might be reasonably called a master narrative of board diversity. One plausible candidate-a business version of Justice Powell’s Bakke narrative-appears from time to time. Our subjects have mentioned their beliefs that diversity creates a “richer conversation,” “an entirely new perspective,” “different points of view,” and “a very positive dynamic.” But it is a theoretical narrative without concrete detail, a story without substance. When invited to elaborate, subjects have digressed into instances that had little to do with race or gender, and in fact have often distanced themselves from demographic variables. And none expressed anything more than a hope that diversity would correlate with business performance. Overall, our subjects tell a story that amounts to little more than “it seems like a good thing to do.”
Now that the business case for diversity on corporate boards has been well called into question, I will now address the blatant sexism and racism inherent in the entire Bloomberg article. First, let us evaluate the article’s title: “…board shows white male influence”. I suppose the headline could be a reference to how Facebook is successful because it is run by white men, but how likely is that? More likely, I think, is that the headline is meant as a slam on clubby white boys keeping those girls out because they can. It’s a race- and sex-baiting attack against one of the only groups which is still a legitimate target for sexist/racist offensive comments in the present PC climate.
Second, Ms. Mulcahy is quoted as saying “if they just have an old boy’s network in the boardroom, they won’t have access to diverse ideas and strategies”. Now, if I were a woman or a non-white, and if I believed that I should be judged by my ability and the content of my character, this statement would make me quite unhappy. For the very implication that my skin color or the fact that I possess a vagina versus a penis expresses itself in certain attributes, attitudes, traits, skills, abilities, or behaviors is by definition sexual or racial stereotyping, if not straight-up sexism or racism. This headline implies that those presumed liberals who push illiberal diversity measures are using race and/or sex as a proxy for whatever qualities they are seeking, something that if done by others in other contexts, would be roundly and accurately denounced as sexist or racist.
Third, let us assume for a moment that such stereotyping and racism/sexism is now permitted. Let us also assume that the sort of sex-based grooming that Ms. Mulcahy herself engaged in is now permitted for white men. We would then have a culture in which white male executives and managers are hired, selected, and groomed for no other reason than because they are white and male. Somehow I don’t think Ms. Mulcahy and her ideological fellow-travellers are prepared for that reduction-ad-absurdum outcome…yet this is what she practices by her own admission.
I’ll wrap up this post with this observation: the champions of diversity, as exemplified by this article, have apparently abandoned the principles of equalitarianism upon which they formerly stood. They now, nakedly, advance openly racist and sexist ideals and advocate for State-enforced discrimination no different in character and tone of the sort which they claim they opposed two generations ago. Rather than having progressed to the next higher plane of human existence, they have merely swapped one form of prejudices for another, and one form of State oppression for another. They are truly Orwell’s pigs from Animal Farm.
Exit questions: At what point have we achieved enough diversity? If “diverse” is defined as “not a white dude”, is “completely diverse” the complete extirpation of white male presence in an organization?
About the author: EW is a well-trained monkey charged with operating heavier-than-air machinery. His interests outside of being an opinionated rabble-rouser are hunting, working out, motorcycling, spending time with his family, and flying. He is a father to three, a husband to one, and is a sometime contributor here at Spearhead. More of his intolerable drivel is available at the blog The Elusive Wapiti.