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sharkfish, diversity in corporate boardrooms

"The smartest Asians in this country are not in the boardrooms. Why not? The smartest women are not running corporations. Why not?"

Just to test this theory, I pulled four random Fortune 500 corporations from my stock ticker this morning. Of course its not really possible to tell who is black or asian (aside from the occasional Yang or Wong) on the ones with no pictures, but you can see the women, and the ones with pictures certainly show a diverse group:

Microsoft: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/bod/default.mspx

Lockheed Martin:
http://www.lockheedmartin.com/wms/findPage.do?dsp=fec&ci=12931&sc=400

Dow Chemical:
http://www.dow.com/about/aboutdow/lead/board.htm

Cisco Systems:
http://investor.cisco.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=81192&p=irol-govboard

I will grant you, its still mostly white men, but if you look at the ages of the directors, half these people got their careers started when segregation was legal or recently ended. Give it time, and there will be more minorities, but it appears these board rooms acurately reflect the pool of available, qualified applicants for such positions.
Permalink Phil 
January 19th, 2006
Well, here's another question for you to research.

If my father (a white, anglo-saxon Protestant) was the head of a company when I was a child, how much more likely is it that I will be the head of a company when I grow up?

I believe this is the main argument for "affirmative action" in the first place -- that more than 'fairness' was needed to provide greater opportunity to people harmed by segregation.

In any event, your point could either be AA has worked so we don't have to do it any more, or that AA is working but not well enough, so should be continued.
Permalink AllanL5 
January 19th, 2006
Well that would be just about impossible for me to research with only online data, since its difficult to find histories of officers of companies. Is it a coincidence that Bill Ford Jr is head of the company his great grandfather started? Or that Roy Disney, the nephew of Walt on his way to heading Disney? Of course it's not a coincidence, but in both cases they are handed the reins for their name recognition, the old "their name is on the building" routine. They have to be voted in by a board of directors who are elected by shareholders, but it's like how GWB got such great initial poll numbers, name recognition counts for a lot. But out of those four companies I listed, none are related to their founders (Besides where the founders still run them, but Bill Gates daughter isn't on the board or anything). But even affirmative action does not try to enforce that a family business cannot be passed down to heirs.
Permalink Phil 
January 19th, 2006
Allen - is that you advocating Affirmative Action for black people or for the working class in general?
Permalink a cynic writes... 
January 19th, 2006
We're all just bitter because Christie Hefner got Playboy...

Philo
Permalink Philo 
January 19th, 2006
Personally, I'd like to see Affirmative Action continued for another 20 years or so. And that's the original kind of "Affirmative Action", trying to balance the membership of companies racially and by sex. In other words trying to balance access to careers for minorities and women.

Providing mobility from lower classes to upper classes is a larger issue, one America was founded upon. I believe that one is based on our educational system and individual merit. But that's not the topic of this thread.

I'm given hope by the "Equal Employment Opportunity Company" laws still on the books.
Permalink AllanL5 
January 19th, 2006
It's just my Dad was white anglo-saxon (most Englishmen are) and Protestant (Church of England) and in no way was he the head of a company. Given that that is true for most white people - I don't think you chose the best example.

If the life chances of someone from a similar class but different ethnic background are demonstrably different you've a strong case for AA. But you have to make the case comparing  like with like...
Permalink a cynic writes... 
January 19th, 2006
Fair enough, 'cynic'. My father wasn't the head of a company either -- I was trying to define a 'class' of people "those whose father ran a company" -- to see if they really did have greater access to resources and education and job training that resulted in greater economic success in their lives.

The hypothesis being that Affirmative Action hadn't had long enough to work if this 'glass ceiling' still existed. I don't tknow the answer here, but I'm curious.

In America we try to separate the issues of poor versus rich from minority versus majority race issues. We had that slavery thing much longer than England did. After that we had the Jim Crow laws. Shoot, we didn't even have the voting rights act until 1964, and that took the assassination of Kennedy to get it passed.

If we don't separate those issues, then blacks being poor is 'merely' because they're not trying hard enough -- not because they were (or perhaps still are) denied access to resources.

Oh, and note 'class issues' usually mean something completely different in America than England. America wants to be a classless society, with economic mobility no matter who you are, based on merit. Doesn't mean we succeed at this, of course.
Permalink AllanL5 
January 19th, 2006
"I was trying to define a 'class' of people "those whose father ran a company" -- to see if they really did have greater access to resources and education and job training that resulted in greater economic success in their lives. "

Well it would be obvious that someone who is a child of a sucessful businessman would have greater access to resources, job training and education simply because they would be rich.

If your theory were true, simple being a relative of a sucessful business person would guarantee one a place in society. My grandfather and his father ran an extremely sucessful business and were wealthy. Around when my grandpa died, the business completely collapsed, and thus I as an heir started out life poor, and have had no special resources or connections. Assuming the business had continued to thrive, I would have a leg up. But African Americans and women can receive these same benefits as well. Jessie Jackson's son will most likely take over for him, I'm sure Michael Jackson's kids will have some instant star power and receive a good education, etc...
Permalink Phil 
January 19th, 2006
"In any event, your point could either be AA has worked so we don't have to do it any more, or that AA is working but not well enough, so should be continued."

Here's the problem with "Affirmative Action": It implicitly says "this group can't succeed on their own merit".

That is WILDLY damaging... I've stated this before, but let me repeat it here:

a) If the person is actually qualified without any special "considerations", then this calls their accomplishments into question becuase "they only got here because of AA".

b) If the person is not qualified, then this is yet another case of a flawed program and poisons it for everyone else.

c) If the person is borderline qualified or in direct competition with someone who doesn't fall into the same category, then whichever way the decision is made, the result is called into question.

Who precisely does this help *other* than the person who feels good for "helping" the recipient? It's a feel-good policy, nothing more.
Permalink KC 
January 19th, 2006
I'm sure the glass ceiling does exist. The point I was making was that in order to show that there was de facto discrimination you would need to narrow things down to the single variable. Otherwise you're comparing rich with poor, rather than white with black. That *might* be the same thing but might not.

Essentially you need to show a difference in class mobility according to "race", all other things being equal. If discrimination acts as a "glass ceiling" you might see no difference until you get to the sons of doctors (or equivilent), when the old boys network kicks in. Alternatively you might see discrimination at all levels until you get to that level at which point "he's one of us". 
Each requires a different response.
Permalink a cynic writes... 
January 19th, 2006
Someone check me on this -
In the 1970's, I distinctly remember complaints about lack of representation of women in management.
In the late 80's/90's there were complaints about the lack of female executives.
Today the "glass ceiling" complaints talk about the lack of women in the boardroom.

Anyone notice a trend here? Maybe the reason there aren't many female or minority board members today is the dearth of women and minorities in business schools in the 50's?

Philo
Permalink Philo 
January 19th, 2006
"In other words trying to balance access to careers for minorities and women.

Providing mobility from lower classes to upper classes is a larger issue, one America was founded upon."

Uh, do you care about minorities, or low-income people? While there's significant overlap, they're not equal sets. Remember that Bill Cosby's and Colin Powell's kids get to check the box...

Philo
Permalink Philo 
January 19th, 2006
"Anyone notice a trend here? Maybe the reason there aren't many female or minority board members today is the dearth of women and minorities in business schools in the 50's?"

Philo... are you suggesting that it takes a bit of time for things to reach a balance?

Logic and reasonable conclusions have no place here!
Permalink KC 
January 19th, 2006
"Give it time, and there will be more minorities, but it appears these board rooms acurately reflect the pool of available, qualified applicants for such positions."

I hope so.
Permalink sharkfish 
January 19th, 2006

This topic was orginally posted to the off-topic forum of the
Joel on Software discussion board.

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