When is it OK to stereotype?

January 20, 2013 2 COMMENTS

by Mark Schickman

We are a country that is properly committed to judging people based on their individual qualifications and not stereotypes about their groups―race, gender, age, or ethnicity. One seldom sees articles suggesting that any one category makes a better executive than another. The one exception is the never-ending stream of articles that say women make better executives than do men―the most recent major survey out just last month.

Surely, there is a need to tout the skills of female executives because statistics show that women remain underrepresented in high executive positions. Another study this month shows that the Fortune 500 companies have workforces that are about half female, but only 21 of those companies have female CEOs. Women comprise 14.3% of executive positions and hold only 16.6% of the board seats in the Fortune 500. Women executives also earn 16% less than their male counterparts, tracking the national statistic that women generally earn 84% of what men do. For women of color, the statistics are far worse in every single category.

So it’s important to look past our biases and make our decisions based on individual merit. But should we create a remedy by suggesting another form of stereotypical analysis? Should we mitigate against the extra quarter-million dollars of income that taller, slimmer, good-looking employees receive during their lifetime by suggesting that unattractive people make better employees because they aren’t distracted by an active social life? No, whatever the motive, there is something fundamentally troubling about the broad argument that one class is better than another, something that tends to foster discrimination rather than halt it. read more…