“Gender equality: Taking stock of where we are” is an article from McKinsey, management consultant to Enron (Guardian). This cluster of Harvard and Stanford MBAs has figured out that setting explicit quotas results in more employment for the targeted group:
Our experience has been that top-down targets make a difference. We didn’t set explicit gender goals for McKinsey until 2014, and in just one year after doing so, our intake of female consultants has increased by five percentage points.
McKinsey charges customers a lot of money for forward thinking, but they seem to be taking a backward attitude toward gender. What does it mean for a consultant to be “female”? How does McKinsey know that 100 percent of their employees won’t come in tomorrow morning identifying as “female” (or “male” for that matter)? If the modern way of looking at gender is that it is primarily a state of mind, wouldn’t the smartest employers achieve instant gender balance by offering a bonus to any worker of the over-represented gender to identify as a member of the under-represented gender? (See this report on papers from the American Economic Association on what people are willing to do in exchange for small financial incentives.)
Let’s assume for the moment that McKinsey is correct in its assumption that employee gender is persistent and/or biological. Why is their focus on the gender composition of their workforce? Does McKinsey have the same percentage of African-American partners in the U.S. as there are African-Americans in the U.S. population as a whole? If not, does switching the focus to gender mean that McKinsey has given up on achieving racial goals/quotas? (Or that McKinsey agrees with Rachel Dolezal regarding race being a social construction?) One thing that nearly everyone agrees on, except perhaps Tinder users, is that age is an immutable biological fact for humans. Why isn’t McKinsey interested in addressing age discrimination, establishing hiring quotas for older workers, or examining the potential for age disparity in new hires that results from recruiting almost exclusively from among fresh MBA graduates?
Let’s assume that the gender composition of a workforce is in fact something that should take higher priority than racial or age composition. According to the authors, McKinsey is interested in sorting employees by gender so that women can have “economic equality”:
Economic equality for women, to no small degree, depends on achieving a sweeping set of social-equality reforms. Is it the business of executives to help solve broader social issues? We would say yes, provided they don’t distract from the very real issues executives face in their own organizations.
The article does not mention, however, that women in many parts of the U.S. can obtain the after-tax spending power of a McKinsey partner by having sex with three McKinsey partners and harvesting the resulting child support (see Real World Divorce; works best in California, Massachusetts, New York, and Wisconsin; if she doesn’t want children she could have sex with six McKinsey partners and sell the abortions). If a woman and a man have the same spending power, isn’t that “economic equality”? If the goal is economic equality, shouldn’t McKinsey therefore make greater efforts to achieve gender balance in jurisdictions, e.g., Germany and Scandinavia, where unlimited child support profits are not available?
McKinsey is a member of the “30% club,” seeking a quota of 30% for corporate board representation, but the authors don’t explain why the goal should be 30 percent. Why not 50 percent, for example? Or 100 percent for a period of time in order to make up for past underrepresentation? (And if McKinsey has denied employment opportunities to women in the past, doesn’t fairness require that the quota for new hires be 100% female, at least for a period of time?)
The authors claim that it will be tough for McKinsey to hire and retain more women but they don’t explain why. Is it the case that among the 7 billion people on Planet Earth there are not enough qualified people who identify as “women” to occupy 50, or even 100 percent of the chairs at McKinsey? If there are sufficient qualified people who, at least for the present identify as “women,” what is preventing McKinsey from offering them a combination of salary and benefits that would induce them to join and stay at McKinsey?
If McKinsey is not competent to hire the mix of employees that it desires, why announce that failure to the world? Doesn’t that cast some doubt on McKinsey’s competence to serve as management consultants? Or is McKinsey’s point that they ran a quota system at their company, which bumped up the percentage of employees who identify as part of the female gender, and you can pay them to advise on running a similar quota system at your company?
What do readers think? Does this article make you more or less impressed with the quality of thinking at McKinsey?