Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sometimes I do not want to pick up a newspaper

I do not enjoy reading the newspapers when a big story exists regarding a negative assessment of one's race, class, or gender. Recently conservative pundits decry Judge Sotomayor as nothing more than an exercise of so-called "identity politics." The New York Times ran a pretty decent piece about the process today. But it is amazing to consider how the rhetoric changes when it looks as though a woman from an ethnic minority might be promoted.

President Obama indicated that diversity constituted an important criterion; he defined diversity to include experience, character, judgment, and points of view. He generated a short list of candidates that came from a wide range of professional backgrounds. From a list of 9, who passed through a process of a 10-page review and then a 60-70-page review, he interviewed 4.

What's rather amazing to me is that people are citing that he didn't interview any men in the in-person stage as evidence that the process reflects inherent bias. I have read so many results of search processes that insist that the reason why no women were invited to an interview was that no qualified woman could be found. Usually such rationale of only inviting the qualified to an interview withstands scrutiny. Granting 4 of 9 candidates on the short list an interview after vetting them through 70-80 pages of paper with conversations amongst a wide array of people seems like a pretty fair ratio to me.

I do not understand why people resort to language like "(Person) only got an interview because of diversity issues around race and gender." Such language, at best, is an act of bullying; at worst, it is an act of violence.

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