On Quotas and Monocultures

mRByrdsMaybe you’ve heard of the Rooney Rule.

Named after former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, a noted advocate for diversity, the Rooney Rule “requires National Football League teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs.” By and large, the consensus is that the Rooney Rule has been only partially successful; as a result, revisions are being considered.

Basically, the Rooney Rule is a form of a quota.

To be honest, I don’t like the idea of quotas. To me, something feels off about the whole notion of such things, and I think it’s this:

Our need for quotas reflects the presence of biased and broken systems.

Why do we need a Rooney Rule? Because something about how the NFL coach selection system is constructed can’t seem to give potential minority football coaches a fair shot. And because the system is slanted, we need quotas to offer a correction.

Basically, quotas exist because equality doesn’t. Or can’t. And that bugs me. It offends my sensibilities.

In fact, something about needing quotas violates my understanding about how the world, as created by God in Genesis 1:27 and affirmed by Paul in texts like Galatians 3:28, is supposed to work. You see, I think God set the world up in such a way that quotas should be fundamentally unnecessary.

Simply put, in an ideal world, we just wouldn’t need quotas. 

And I wish that were the case, because it would mean that everyone had a fair and equal shot.

And so I read this article with interest last week. It chronicles the German Parliament’s decision to establish a gender-based quota for Board of Directors seats in large companies, to the extent that 30% of Board seats would have to be held by women or else remain vacant.

Let’s put aside my immediate reaction of “well, why not 50%?!?” Because, evidently, 30% would represent a pretty drastic change. From the article:

“The executive boards of the 200 largest companies in Germany remain a male monoculture,” according to the study by the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW). “Only around 4 percent of the 906 executive board positions [are] filled by women.”

Clearly, Germany has a long way to go to get to a place where quotas won’t be necessary. But here’s the hope, expressed by Germany’s family minister Manuela Schwesig:

“A change in culture has started. Simply the debate surrounding the law has triggered a rethinking process in society, in the industry and in the public sector.”

A change in culture in this area sounds good to me. And may it be so, in Germany and in other countries, including our own. Someday, may the playing field be so level that artificial assistance is no longer needed.

Until then, it seems to me that a quota like this is better than nothing.

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