National Public Radio has a story this week on corporate diversity efforts, and Xerox wins the prize for political correctness. At Xerox, “performance reviews of senior managers include a section on how much they are doing to promote diversity” and “managers are expected to show progress toward diversity over time.”
I certainly won’t dispute that Xerox may take the corporate cake (though it is hardly alone). An Oct. 17, 2005 article in Newsweek about Xerox confirmed, “Managers are judged — and compensated — on meeting diversity goals.” Worse, the article indicates that the company’s CEO, Anne Mulcahy, was dismissive of affirmative discrimination concerns: “Tales of preferential treatment — along with numerical targets for women — might raise the ire of affirmative-action opponents. So be it. ‘If [somebody] wanted to write an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, I don’t particularly care,’ Mulcahy says.” No doubt she feels the same way about Corner items.
The discrimination can be even more blatant; the company offers, on a racially exclusive basis, “Technical Minority Scholarships” for which white students need not apply.
Sometimes, however, the bean-counting backfires, and in unexpected ways. For example, in 2003 Xerox lost an employment discrimination case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. At issue was the company’s “Balanced Workforce Initiative,” begun “in the 1990’s for the stated purpose of insuring that all racial and gender groups were proportionately balanced at all levels of the company.” The Houston office detected a racial imbalance, and so its general manager took steps “to remedy the disproportionate racial representation” there, “set[ting] specific racial goals for each job and grade level.” The Fifth Circuit found that “the existence of the [Balanced Workforce Initiative] is sufficient to constitute direct evidence of a form or practice of discrimination.” After all, “Xerox candidly identified explicit racial goals for each job and grade level,” and the evidence “indicate[d] that managers were evaluated on how well they complied with” the initiative’s objectives.
An appalling company policy and an excellent judicial decision. And here’s the kicker: The plaintiffs were African Americans and the company had concluded that, for the particular positions at issue, “blacks were over-represented and whites were under-represented.”
For more on corporate diversity nonsense — and why, despite all the hype, it is logically, empirically, legally, and morally unjustified — see my testimony before the EEOC three years ago. A good New Year’s Resolution for Corporate America would be just to hire the best qualified people, without regard to race, ethnicity, or sex.