Diversity Quotas: A Solution or a Problem?

Is there sincerity when company diversity quotas transform the beauty of diversity into numbers in a statistic? 

In light of recent news and social movements, conversations about diversity and gender equality have run rampant in politics, social media, schools, etc. Racing to appease the public, many companies have eagerly promoted their dedication to organizational diversity. However, with all these boisterous voices, it brings to question where sincerity lies

To demonstrate efforts for diversity, one of the strategies applied by companies is enforced diversity quotas. These quotas are a requirement to hire a set number of employees of a particular race or gender. Considering the fact that diversity quotas require the systematic quantification of individuals based on superficial characteristics such as gender and skin color, it calls to question whether genuine dedication for diversity underlies these efforts or if they are nothing more than the latest ploy to improve a reputation.

It feels imperative to first acknowledge that there are considerable benefits accompanying diversity quotas. They ensure that, regardless of sincerity, a variety of perspectives are nevertheless brought into the room, and a voice is given to those who otherwise would be silenced. This equal opportunity could admittedly help alleviate the inequality created by income and education gaps that historically favor white, wealthy men. The “forced” diversity would likewise heighten productivity as various views and backgrounds intertwine, creating unique approaches and methods.

Although diverse perspectives are included in the room, it does not necessarily ensure all voices will be heard. In fact, the stigma that a diversity quota, rather than merit, is the only reason a woman or minority is hired often further suppresses their voices. According to a study reported by Forbes[1], a company’s diversity quota caused both men and women to believe that “merit seemingly played a lesser role in the hiring decision than gender.” This same study reported that this stigma drove people away from applying when a diversity quota was involved.

Furthermore, diversity quotas fail to address the true root of the issue: racism and sexism in the workplace. Quotas merely force a hiring manager to employ minorities. It does nothing to correct the issue of prejudice that, without a quota, would have led him or her to hire someone else. If anything, quotas perpetuate prejudices because an individual, whose merit and complexity are what truly define them, is instead defined by his or her external attributes. An employee becomes the company’s “token black or Asian or Latina girl”—a mere facade for the company that exploited the color of someone’s skin for a reputation.

Illustration by Morgan Wittmers-Graves

Illustration by Morgan Wittmers-Graves

Of course, this deception may not always be the case, and there are undoubtedly some sincere efforts executed by certain organizations. However, if a company possesses a genuine dedication to diversity, it will be made evident without a diversity quota. Strategies would include programs that promote diversity and create merit-based equal opportunities such as events or initiatives geared specifically toward women or minorities. To address the root problem of hiring teams’ underlying (or intentional) racism and sexism, companies should be training them on the importance of diversity and how to navigate their prejudices. Likewise, when it comes to employing an individual, hiring teams should be a diverse panel that includes minorities and women. A good employer would recognize that a qualified candidate who possesses a unique perspective (e.g. as a person of color, a different gender, etc.) would be a beneficial addition. If employees are predominantly white men, then a company should recognize that, rather than implementing a quota, perhaps it is the hiring team that needs reforming.

Although diversity quotas may protect us from prejudiced roadblocks, they again fail to abolish the root of the problem, which is that racism and sexism plague our society. These quotas are like air freshener over a stench; they may smell nice, look nice, and for a moment you believe they arenice, but the real problem, weeks-old trash, persists. Diversity quotas may put on a progressive facade, but in the end, they essentially fail to rectify the prejudiced minds that created this inequality problem in the first place.

Wake Mag