Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board

Diversity initiatives - friend or foe

Lots of companies seem to have diversity initiatives, especially in the US. Do they work or are they counterproductive ?

What about different cultures: are diversity initiatives welcome, irrelavent or insulting ?

In the UK, for example, diversity seems to be celebrated in big set piece events, but day to day it seems to be polite to pretend that there is no cultural difference whatsoever. It's never mentioned.

In the US, on the other hand, it seems to be the norm for cultural differences to be readily acknowledged.

Opinions ?

Thursday, April 22, 2004

I'm in the US, and I wish my company had a diversity initiative...  Then maybe I wouldn't be the only American software engineer working here.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

nice - anon.  ;-)

Thursday, April 22, 2004

I'll tell you how it is: in the US, it is forbidden to question the diversity initiatives. If you do, you will be labelled a racist, and will have all sorts of problems.

I don't live in the US, so I don't have this problem.

In fact I think that the diversity initiatives are ok. I am not a racist.

But what is NOT ok (in my opinion) is not being able to have honest discussions about these issues.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

The whole "african american" civil rights movement is what made (IMO) talking about race taboo in the USA. 

African American? What the hell is that?

Unless you're off the boat or your grandparents are off the boat, you're JUST AN AMERICAN.

The problem is the less educated african american community feels as if they've been wronged - when they really haven't.  Yes, their great, great, great grandparents may have been wronged.  They've had 3 generations to get their act together as a group.  Time to let go of the 'white-man-holding-us-down' bit that these people have been spewing out...

My parents immigrated to the US 30 years ago.  They did not speak english.  Yes it was tough - yes people gave them crap.  They're not college educated, but they managed to stick together, build a modest-middle class income and send their kids to college.

We don't feel sorry for the folks who use race as a crutch and I'll be damned if I'm going to be blamed for their great, great, great grandparents being enslaved by 'the white folk.'

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Work is the place to get work done, not celebrate dancing or clothing or voodoo gods or whatever it is people do at home.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

OK, I'll bite.

I hate all these diversity initiatives. I find affirmative action an abomination. I feel like doing a number six on the so called African Americans wanting to sue for slavery.

I am black.

At the same time, so suggest that racial prejudice ended hundreds of years ago borders on the criminal. In recent history (way after the end of WW2), blacks were LEGALLY prejudiced, socially and economically.

Even in England, not so long ago, a lot of pub had "No dogs, No Irish and No Blacks" signs.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

I think I agree with Ms Rand on this one... particularly the last sentence.

"Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.  It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man's genetic lineage -- the notion that a man's intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. 

Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors."

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Diversity initiatives are just another name for "positive discrimination". It is my believe that they are extremely damaging. What they do is effectively incriminating every person of being sexist, rasist, *ist irrestpective of their actions. It is insulting to the recipient, since they will always be suspected of having succeeded because of favours, not on merit. It i insulting to the non recipient since they are given less chances despite not having committed any *ist crime.
What should be done is focus on the perpetrators of illegal discrimination, and rightly punisch them for it. Now, whole groups are made guilty and convicted by default. What a way to achieve a "peace".

Just me (Sir to you)
Thursday, April 22, 2004

> Diversity initiatives are just another name for "positive discrimination".

In schools (teacher's education) it's called an "anti-bias" policy or curriculum. You can Google for "anti-bias" if you're interested.

Christopher Wells
Thursday, April 22, 2004

Just to back up Tapiwa, I'm English but my family name is German (we go back at least 120 years).  On at least one occasion my mum was told that a flat wasn't available until the landlady saw me all blond and blue-eyed in my pram.  This sort of thing still happens - but at the time it was legal.

As to the original question in the general case in the UK positive discrimination is illegal.  There are ways to provide training for a particular ethnic group, but you have to be able to show that essentially members of that ethnic group are barred from entry to whichever profession it is.  The rules *are* enforced. 

The upshot was that the Metropolitan Police (they cover most of London) have had to ask for a change in the law in order to bring in their "diversity initiative".

a cynic writes...
Thursday, April 22, 2004


I don't disagree about racial prejudices having been done away with only recently (30-40 years.)  That is different from the slavery 'bit'

However, I don't think it was specific only to blacks - though they took the brunt of it.  "Back in the day," people would not be allowed to obtain certain jobs because they had a last name ending in a vowel.

The poor community of african americans believe that the white man won't let them have good jobs, the american dream, etc - because they are black.  In truth, it's my opinion that they don't 'make it' because they don't have an education and social skills to work in the business work place, so they are relegated to working at BK & McD's. 

I grew up in a poor neighborhood in the US primarly consisting of hispanics/blacks - I'm white.  I speak like a normal, educated person - by choice.  When we moved to a suburb, our next door neighbor turned out to be a hispanic couple who lived around the corner from us in the 'bad' neighborhood for many years.  They are educated, they speak proper english and damn it, they make plenty of $.  I can certainly talk up the slang if I choose to, but that won't fly in a board meeting.  I went to college, yada yada.  That is why business won't hire people in the ghe-tto.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

As an aside, I just hate the phrase "celebrate diversity".  What the hell does that really mean?  I'd be OK with "accept diversity" or even the more emphatic "embrace diversity".  But "celebrate" - that's way too over the top.

How exactly are we supposed to celebrate it?  I'd be fine with drinking a Jameson on St Paddy's Day, a shot of Cuervo on Cinco de Mayo, or spending an evening with Biance, Lucy Lui, and Salma.  But other than that I don't know what the f*ck I'm supposed to celebrate.

another anon
Thursday, April 22, 2004

"even in the UK..." ?

Perhaps there is an illusion in the US that everything is rosy, multicultural and tolerant in the UK. That is not true. There is embedded cultural prejudice in the UK.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Regarding "affirmative action", I suspect that only a white male from a wealthy family could get easy entrance into Yale (make C's), get an early release from the National Guard to get into HBS, given jobs he wasn't qualified for (and made him rich), to finally become president with very-little government experience. Wealthy whites already have affirmative action.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

The 'even' in reference to the UK was stuck in there because a lot of people argue that the US is where all the bad shit happened. That the UK led the abolition of slavery etc etc. Just highlighting that despite this, civil rights were late in being returned.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

njkayaker, "wealthy anything" already has affirmative action.

Little is written about the wealthy blacks in the states and in England who would be hobnobbing with the 'white' establishment even at the height of 'black' oppression.

That's the one good thing about rich folk... They appreciate the colour of the money and not the bearer.

A more recent example is South Africa. Even at the height of apartheid and segregation, rich black kids were educated side by side with their white counterparts. An irony of this is that the former were then looked down upon by the masses, as sellouts!

Racism, as they say, is just snobbery of the poor.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

"....every single time you hear the word "diversity" you can rest assured that there is someone close by who is determined to rob you of every vestige of individuality you possess. "
    -Neal Boortz

Thursday, April 22, 2004

New rule: when we start quoting Libertarian talk show hosts, thread's over.

Cognitive Dissonance
Thursday, April 22, 2004

I'm with apw on this one.

I don't mind not getting hired solely because I am black. I really don't. His company, his hiring decision, and his LOSS. One cannot legislate away prejudices.

I should be able to stick a sign in front of my Pub that says no blacks, and it is OK.

What I don't want is the govt decreeing that every pub shall have a sign that excludes blacks. There is a difference.

In the first case, I can go and spend my money across the road at Pub BB. In the second, even Pub BB won't let me in even if they wanted to.

Works both ways.  Its was some legislator's attempt to create his idea of racial Utopia that resulted in race laws that were clearly f*cked.

Today, the same social groups who suffered under these laws wish to have more laws, supposedly to protect them.

Similarly, even more legislators (with popular support) are trying to create Utopia with a myriad of laws around immigration, or nationality qualifications for jobs in govt, etc etc.

History has shown that the best interaction, socially or indeed economically is one that is unbridled. Why then has it not clicked that we should be fighting to remove any laws that try and legislate human associations, and crimes of belief.

Why really should the govt force a man who for his own reasons does not like black people at all, to employ them. And why would any self respecting man wish to work for anyone who would not have employed him had these laws not existed.

I am  not trolling. Seriously. Am I missing a point here? Do tell.

Thursday, April 22, 2004


History has shown that the best interaction, socially or indeed economically is one that is unbridled. Why then has it not clicked that we should be fighting to remove any laws that try and legislate human associations, and crimes of belief.

Order over disorder, even if the disorder is benign. Also, no man is an island and cannot be. If you and I share a roof, your existence and growth is dependent on mine, however minutely, because we share equally the available resources.  Independence can be got only by explicitly defining borders. Hence, "Foreigners" are those outside the defined borders. Should you accept blues/magentas/greens into your house, you are  *responsible* for them as much as they are for you, unless they are _guests_.

Why really should the govt force a man who for his own reasons does not like black people at all, to employ them. </quote>

"Why really should the govt force a man who for his own reasons does not like black people at all, to *'protect'*  them? " In the absence of a King/Benefactor/Fuedal Lord to provide one's sustenance as alms/gift/favour/percieved duty, employment for monetary consideration is as important as life.  To paraphrase a pertinent sentiment in another of A.R's works, "Why should I not kill you? You want your life. I do not. It's only a difference of opinon."

And why would any self respecting man wish to work for anyone who would not have employed him had these laws not existed.

Because for him employment is a tool for fulfilling one's needs, and one need not like one's tool, though it certainly is far more preferrable than not liking it.

Cultural diversity is to be encouraged to promote understanding, both of self and others. Else one is bound to become, err...hmm..._incestuous_, for lack of a better word. and that is not a very good thing for a species, though some may argue, individuals may prefer it.

Yes, it sort of is counter-productive when forced, and one feels uncomfortable if pushed to "like others". It is best done voluntarily. But by removing legal structures that enable organisations, themselves a mini-society, to promote  greater diversity, one ensures a sure spiralling-in of the organisation into an inward looking, navel-gazing entity with little chance of horizontal growth, which is just as essential as the vertical one.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

"History has shown that the best interaction, socially or indeed economically is one that is unbridled. Why then has it not clicked that we should be fighting to remove any laws that try and legislate human associations, and crimes of belief."

Not always. Sometimes gov't intervention is required to kick start a change or prevent extremes.

For example, a study published by Scientific American dealt with why child labour is so difficult to eradicate in parts of the world. Basically there comes a point where an economy falls to a level where families can't provide for themselves. They pull kids out of school to work. But that doubles or triples the available work force and depresses wages even further - entrenching the child labour. The only way out is for the gov't to intervene and ban child labour. That reduces the work force and drives wages up (in theory).

The same thing with can happen with racism, if a few people practice it, they can be ignored. But it can spread to an extent where all of a sudden it is pervasive and entrenched. That is when gov't intervention is required.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

My son is a junior in HS and applying to colleges.  Anyhow, the subject came up.  I said "y'know, you may be discriminated against based on racial preferences, but it doesn't matter.  There are lots of good schools and you're smart enough and have the scores to get into one of them."

Kind of goes with that whole "Indians stole my job thing".  Lots of other jobs out there.  Forget about your small injustice and move on.  Lots of other people have bigger problems than you.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

As the Chief Justice of the Australian High Court once said :

"Equality does not mean treating the advantaged and the disadvantaged the same".

Of couse, like all things, its a matter of degree.

I laugh when I hear a white South African complaining how unfair it is that the government forces them to have at least one black player in their rugby team.  Yes they actually do this.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

What about discrimination against Fat Guys?

That's the worst.

A. Portly Guy
Friday, April 23, 2004

Some 'bok fans argue that positive discrimination in the rugby team cost South Africa the world cup.

Shame . . .

The All-Blacks never had a problem adjusting their team to a multi-cultural stance, the Aussies seem to have no trouble. France have no problem. England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland on the other hand . . .

The USA rugby team is the most impressive in this respect. Their team consists entirely of Americans who are well known to have a genetic predeliction to forward passing, needing to take a breather every two minutes and an instinctive need to tackle everyone in sight whether they have the ball or not.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Yes. I'm fat too. And indeed, we are discriminated against.

However I decided to fight that by working extra hard so I am the most competent person in the company. Because of this I get a lot of respect.

Johny B Fat
Friday, April 23, 2004

Go Johnny.

You did not ask for some politician to pass a law making people like you. You got respect the old fashioned way. By earning it.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Ummm guys ... diversity means more than racial diversity. Most software development shops have better racial diversity than gender diversity.

How many of you who develop software for a living do so in an environment with anything approaching normal gender diversity? Don't you ever sit in a meeting and wonder "why are there no women here"?

And a related question - do you care? Would your workplace be better if it were more gender diverse? Other things being equal if you had two job offers and one environment was all male and the other was gender diverse, which would you pick?

Would you support your employer applying company additional resources (HR, interviewer time, outreach efforts, college programs, etc) to try to address the imbalance?

Or are you happy to spend your working lives surrounded by just men?

Angela Davis
Saturday, April 24, 2004

"In the first case, I can go and spend my money across the road at Pub BB. In the second, even Pub BB won't let me in even if they wanted to."

50 years ago, you couldn't simply go to another pub across the road, because they would also refuse to let you in.  The extreme and widespread nature of the discrimination that existed 50 years ago and before made it necessary to introduce legislation to invoke change.

Let me use the pub example above to explain why legislation was very important.  Some of the white pub owners actually didn't have a personal problem with black people in their establishment.  More people in the place means more money for them, regardless of their color.  But some who tried letting in blacks, especially those that didn't separate them, noticed that they lost much of their white customers to the competition that maintained a whites-only policy.  They realized that they had to choose between losing the blacks who were ~15% of their market, vs. losing most of the whites who were ~80% of their market.

So even if they wanted to have a non-racist policy, econmics practically forced them to perpetuate the racism.  Once it became illegal to deny admission based on race, those who wanted to admit everybody could do so without losing customers to the all-white competition.

And while legislation won't do much to change the attitudes of existing racists, it definitely has a great effect on future generations who are less likely to become racists when they grow up without seeing  widespread racism being practiced.

The Civil Rights movement and the legislation coming from it was very necessary.  However, certain programs like Affirmative Action do need to be seriously revamped.

And in case you didn't notice, I am black.

T. Norman
Saturday, April 24, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home