Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Widespread Gender Discrimination in the Workplace?

It is impossible to say with a straight face that sexism does not exist in the workplace. I have seen casual sexism firsthand where the individuals involved had no idea that they were being sexist. I have also met people who sincerely believed that women ought to quarantine themselves to their homes as soon as they are married. They were some of the most unpleasant individuals that I ever had the misfortune of meeting.

Sexism does exist in the workplace, just as it exists in other aspects of society. Like racism, tribalism, and any other form of collectivism, sexism is one of the relics of a primitive mind that ought to have been stamped out a long time ago in order for us to be able to say that we live in a civilized society without having to blush each time we say it.

However, especially in this day and age, it is a stretch to imagine that sexism is widespread and practiced wholesale, especially within competitive industries.

As I have said in a previous post, it does not make much sense to argue that businesses are only concerned about maximizing profits (which is not always true), but then forget that profits are important as soon as they see a a woman. Specifically, I said:

However, let us assume for a moment that there is no difference in productivity between men and women as the phrase “equal pay for equal work” so often insinuates. Let us assume that despite the equal level of productivity between men and women, men do, indeed, on average earn 38% more than their female counterparts.
If that were true; if women are not getting equal pay despite doing the same job with the same level of productivity, then why would any business, which almost always cares about profitability above all else, employ any man at all? What reason would there be for businesses to not employ only women to fill all of their job positions and save 38% on their labor costs (labor costs usually being most businesses’ single greatest expenditure)? If greedy business executives’ main concern is almost always profit maximization, how do we account for so many “overpaid” men in the workforce?

So why did I bring this up? A few days ago, a trial that took place in the United States nearly brought a Silicon Valley venture-capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, down to its knees. For a quick run down on the case, check this link here.

The jury found the company “not guilty” of discriminating against the plaintiff, Ellen Pao, on the grounds of her gender. I did not follow the case closely so I do not know the details of the case. However, what I do know is that Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers was not the only one on trial. The entire tech industry was on trial and as far as the punditry is concerned, they have already judged that the entire industry is as guilty as sin.

Case in point, this article in the New York Times among many others (see here, here, here, here, and here) spent more time talking about the entire industry than they did about the particulars of this case.

Image Source

But is there evidence that the entire industry's ranks are full of sexists and misogynists? No, there isn't. There have been isolated pockets of sexism, certainly, but conflating those incidents with conspiratorial whispers of “there must be more” does not constitute proof.

In the Wall Street Journal, a brilliant editorial (which is behind a paywall) was penned to pan these baseless accusations. For those who do not have a paid account for the Wall Street Journal, here are the highlights.
Ms. Pao’s suit is a perfect example of the feminist vendetta against Silicon Valley companies. That vendetta is based on the following conceit: Businesses refuse to hire or promote top-notch employees who would increase their profits, simply because those employees are female. Reality check: Any employer who rejects talent out of irrational prejudice will be punished in the marketplace when competitors snap up that talent. For the feminist line of attack on Silicon Valley to be valid, every tech firm would need to be conspiring in an industrywide economic suicide pact.
Even leaving aside market pressures, the claim that any high-profile company today would discriminate against highly qualified females defies political reality. Every elite business is desperate to hire and promote as many women as it can to fend off the gender lobby. Women who deny that their sex is an employment asset are fooling themselves.
The scant evidence that Ms. Pao assembled to prove that her advancement was blocked because of her gender reeks of the trendy academic theory of “microaggression” — a word that refers to racism and sexism that is otherwise invisible to the naked eye.
The market is the best antidote to discrimination. It rewards talent and penalizes prejudice. Silicon Valley, an unprecedented cornucopia of life-transforming innovation, is a shining example of entrepreneurial market forces. Kleiner Perkins might have won this recent skirmish, but Silicon Valley remains in the cross hairs of feminist crusaders and their media allies. Expect companies to load up on bean-counting diversity officers and sexual-harassment training.

I could not agree more. Of course, with an issue that is as controversial as identity politics, there is bound to be disagreement. Feel free to discuss in the comments section.

1 comment:

  1. "Here's a comment from a correspondent, TheBoss:

    "I think the problem is not active sexism, but the perception that male employees are by default more talented, therefore the bias inherent to human perception concerning stereotypes is in favor of male traits due to man being prelavent in the workforce."

    My response:

    I believe that that is the definition, or at least one of the definitions, of microaggression. And I do not think anyone is saying that such sexism is absent in any workplace. Of course sexism exists. However, insinuating that that culture exists at such levels to the point that an entire industry, a very competitive industry, would be engaged in a hushed up conspiracy to “put women in their place,” damn the profits, sounds like a stretch.