The Diversity Fetish will injure British business

Most people in the English-speaking world will have come across the word “diversity”. In the last year or two this vague concept has been elevated to the status of an unqualified public good, on a par with “green”.

Even more than “green”, “diversity” is a political weapon, used to advance the careers of certain groups in our nation, or obstruct them if a person is thought not to subscribe to the all-embracing ideology of “diversity”. Diversity is, in fact, a fancy word for group favouritism.

The latest group to succumb to this ideology is a group of City investment funds which has released a statement to the effect that as shareholders in a company they “may choose to vote against the re-election of the chair (sic) of the board, or its nomination committee, where there continues to be no evidence of board diversity”.

What does this group mean by “diversity”? They mean the promotion of women to boards which they wouldn’t have achieved without being identified as women and fulfilling a quota[1]. Now, some may say, does it matter if a few underqualified women get appointed to the board of a company they barely know? After all there have been plenty of unqualified men appointed to boards in the past, and anyway it’s the senior managers who actually run a company.

The answer is that as for more than 50 years we have struggled to get competent British managers into the senior roles of especially our largest companies, we don’t now want a whole new tranche of unqualified (female) managers, or any other quota managers for that matter.

Females of course make up over half the population, but the diversity slogan also embraces those from minority ethnic groups, those with minority sexual orientations and those who are disabled in various ways, however small a proportion of the general population they might constitute. Good arguments could be made for all these people to have rewarding and well-paid jobs in an ideal world, but whereas they should not be excluded from consideration for employment at any level because of the group they come from, in practice they have to be able to achieve their ambitions in fair competition with experienced and able people of any group. Otherwise the employer is not selecting the best employees available, which probably puts us as a country back half a century.

The BBC doesn’t advertise that it has a policy for quotas, but on 30th November on BBC Radio4 the Media Programme was dedicated to bemoaning the fact that senior managers and board members at the BBC were all white British males. Contributors to the programme said that more training should be available and well-advertised to enable candidates from female and minority groups to advance to these posts.

In fact, the BBC has run training and coaching courses for these groups for at least 20 years. In 1995, Stephen Bush and his local MP, Nicholas Winterton, protested against a training programme reserved exclusively for African and Asian people for subsequent employment in the BBC in Britain. At first the BBC claimed this programme was “simply” a training programme under the exemptions provided for in Section 35 of the 1975 Race Relations Act. The fact that this “training” offered actual jobs up to salaries worth £32,000 (£50,000 today) persuaded them with bad grace to withdraw this anti-white discrimination measure.

On the evidence of one’s own eyes and ears – all the BBC’s ethnic minority presenters speak with impeccable Home Counties English for instance – the special training programmes are continuing in different guises. How many places on such programmes have been offered to, say North or West country English people, who are much more numerous than all the ethnic minorities combined[2]?

The Media Programme panel were also very surprised that a Black female member of the board of Channel 4 TV should have left her job to be replaced by a highly experienced English man, saying that surely another female, or preferably Black female, could have been found to replace her. The appetite for favouritism grows with the feeding. The ethnicity and gender of the applicant was clearly seen as more important than the person’s likely effectiveness in the job.

End Notes

[1] A typical quota is 30% – from the 30 Club founded by Helena Morrisey CEO of Newton Investment Management. The 30 Club is an articulate well-connected club for already privileged women in financial businesses.

[2] Because of the disproportionate number of ethnic minority TV presenters recruited from metropolitan districts of the big cities, many native British people have gained an idea that British ethnic minorities are much more numerous than they actually are.

The size of the ethnic minority groups who are British citizens is difficult to ascertain, because the census records all those who are “resident”, not just British citizens. The total of Asians, including resident non-British, was recorded in the census of 2011 as 6.9%, the percentage of Blacks as 3% of the UK population. The increase over 2001 to 2011 in these groups was 2.5% (Asians) and 1.2% (Blacks) which it is reasonable to assume will not mainly have acquired British citizenship. This makes the figure for British Black and Asian minorities combined as around 6.5%, or about 1 in 15, which is about half the figure bandied about by the BBC and others. The BBC figure includes white EU immigrants such as Poles.

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