If you’ve had an interview recently for a skilled job, either remote or in an office, you may have been asked questions about diversity. If you’ve ever been trained for giving interviews, you may know that, in many countries, it’s considered unethical to ask a potential employee certain questions. Asking about a jobseeker’s medical history, marital status, children or anything else that could be potentially discriminatory, is usually off limits (unless the candidate brings up any of these topics first). The topic of diversity is a way around these ethical limitations. It’s a loaded idea that is never used to promote diversity of thought. Instead, it’s a weasel word, Orwellian newspeak, to pry into the private political views of a potential candidate and ensure they align ideologically with the politics of the company.
When talking about diversity in the employment context, we’re specifically referring to the diversity of identity. Both acquired (self-identified) and ascribed (immutable) traits seem to be desirable1. Diversity of genetics or self-identification is praiseworthy, but diversity of viewpoints or opinions can be construed as heresy2. For example, consider if a job candidate desired to know more about diversity of thought within a company, and asked the following questions:
- How many Trump supporters do you have employed?
- How many Christians do you have employed?
- Do you have an equal number of people who are pro-life as you have people who are pro-choice?
- Do you have any black conservatives?
Of course, no good employer should know the answer to any of these questions. The individual politics of an accountant or software engineer should have no baring on their knowledge, experience, performance or ability to do his or her job. Asking such questions to a job candidate could be considered discriminatory. Yet if an interviewer asks generally about views on diversity, responding with any of the questions listed above will likely disqualify the candidate on the grounds of not being a good cultural fit for the team.
“For the multiculturalist, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants are prohibited, Italians and Irish get a little respect, blacks are good, native Americans are even better. The further away we go, the more they deserve respect. This is a kind of inverted, patronizing respect that puts everyone at a distance.” -Slavoj Žižek
Is the average construction company going to ask jobseekers about their beliefs on diversity? Is a factory foreman going to care about hiring an equal number of men and women to assemble laundry machines? If you try to seek an answer to this question on any major search engine, the results would suggest the manufacturing industry is greatly concerned about expanding diversity in the workforce. If you actually talk to site managers or foremen, you’ll find they are simply struggling to find people who show up for more than a week, can lay concrete and not be overly addicted to methamphetamine.
It’s rare that a manager at a factory would ask a potential candidate how they feel about diversity. It’s literally inconsequential to preforming the work that needs to be done. Yet such questions seem to now be acceptable for highly skilled, high-income positions.
The Tech Sector
In April of 2021, Basecamp announced changes at their company, including the end to internal societal and political discussions3. This led to several people broadcasting they were leaving the company in a very public fashion4.
“Today’s social and political waters are especially choppy. Sensitivities are at 11, and every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant. You shouldn’t have to wonder if staying out of it means you’re complicit, or wading into it means you’re a target. These are difficult enough waters to navigate in life, but significantly more so at work3.” -Changes at Basecamp. Jason Fried.
Asking about diversity during a job interview is a form of filtering people based on their political affiliations and moral belief structures. Ironically, asking specifically about diversity leads to hiring people who embraced conformity, and who are likely to have orthodoxy privilege5 (or are good liars).
Not embracing candidates with a variety of viewpoints can potentially lead to group think, fail to recognize people for their merits, and eventually lead to a toxic form of exclusive inclusivity.
Diversity is Uniformity
In George Orwell’s classic 1984, certain oxymora were used as mantras and the guiding principles of the ruling party. Among those were the phrases “War is peace, freedom is slavery” and “Ignorance is strength”. In the spirit of Orwell, we are now seeing a world where uniformity is diversity.
Nearly a decade ago, I remember driving in my car and listening to a story about how professors on college campuses, who were religious, were increasingly weary of publicly talking about their faith in fear of judgement and retaliation6. The book The Coddling of the American Mind by Lukianoff and Haidt, published in 2018, further explores the quasi-religious viewpoints growing in academic institutions. Both academia and highly skilled science and technology fields are now converging on a single world view. They both continually use the word inclusivity to describe a very narrow and exclusive philosophy.
There are likely many conservatives with truly diverse viewpoints in the world of big media and big tech. However, many of them self-censor and feel like they must remain silent. An employee speaking their mind on controversial topics might be fine, yet there is always the chance they could end up like James Damore, who was fired in 2017 for his memo titled Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber. The money in these professions is quite lucrative, and therefore stirring the waters may be high risk. Such employees are like mercenaries, working diligently to write software or maintain technological infrastructure, while ignoring the rhetoric of those governing their missions.
If you find my line of reasoning dubious, play this simple thought experiment: Say there is a day at work where people are encouraged to wear silly hats. Now ask yourself how people would respond to someone wearing a Hillary or Biden hat versus a Trump hat. Would it be acceptable for someone to wear a hat showing the blue and gold colors of Ukraine? If so, would it also be acceptable to wear a hat with the white, blue and red colors of the Russian flag?
A new world view, cultivated by our news media and tech industry, is pushing a very narrow and focused agenda. Calling it diversity or equity is a form of doublespeak. These terms are shibboleths, ideological litmus tests, to determine if people follow the new emergent orthodoxy. It is prevalent and spreading in companies and careers with the highest salary ranges.
As more companies embrace these new world views, job candidates who refused to self-censor on their own social media accounts and websites might find themselves pushed from the highest possible income brackets in their fields. Since there is clear evidence that viewpoints of high income individuals are represented in American politics more than that of those from a lower socioeconomic status, those individuals will have less influence over the laws that govern their nation as well.
The lessons of the past show that the majority of people remain silent during times of moral panic. Those who choose to be vocal about moral and political beliefs, may find themselves highly skilled, but unable to obtain jobs in the highest paying companies. The Overton window is shifting, and questions about diversity are a means to allow overt viewpoint discrimination in the workplace.
Basecamp sees mass employee exodus after CEO bans political discussions. 30 April 2021. Hatmaker. Tech Crunch. ↩