Diversity or best for the job?Posted: June 2, 2012
This week, Marketing Week had me bashing my head on my desk over this article – an inconvenient brand truth.
They took a survey which shows that having diverse boards will improve business performance, then looked at Super-Brand Apple with only white middle-class men on the board, and leapt to a whole bunch of stupid conclusions.
Here are the two reasons they are stupid.
One – an anecdote isn’t evidence. Just because Apple is doing well with an un-diverse board doesn’t mean diverse boards don’t work. It’s not like they took two Steve Jobs, gave one a company with a diverse board, and one a company with a board that looked just like him, and studied the results. You cannot use one anecdote to refute a survey.
And Two – diversity isn’t something you do because “women bring different skills”. You do it because that way you get the best. The whine-y comments underneath that it’s not fair on white middle-class men as the poor scraps can’t get a job any more only underlined this. Once you force boards to look for more diverse candidates, they suddenly realise that actually, people who don’t look like them can be even better candidates than those that do.
Diversity doesn’t penalise white men. Diversity creates a level playing feel, and then, what a surprise, it’s not always white men that come out top.
I’m not refuting the article’s conclusion that Apple is an exceptional brand, that has always operated in an exceptional way. But why is this prompted by a survey about equality? This article could have focussed on innovation, doing things differently, standing out from the crowd. By choosing to focus on equality and diversity, the author reduced himself to simply being a white, middle class man moaning “what about teh menz” and completely missing his own point. Poor journalism, based on the idea that a cave-man rally cry will get extra headlines. Why couldn’t the article on equality have prompted Marketing Week to look at itself and the industry more widely? Maybe start introducing a diversity audit for it’s own panel discussions and events? Or have a think about why all their columnists are white middle class men?
This is the inconvenient truth – that pedalling and celebrating old stereotypes isn’t what drives anything forward.