#MediocrityToo

The coming mania for inclusion will erode standards of merit and excellence.

Reprinted from city-journal.org.

If the #MeToo movement only reduces sexual predation in the workplace, it will have been a force for good. Its most likely result, however, will be to unleash a torrent of new gender and race quotas throughout the economy and culture, on the theory that disparities in representation and employment are due to harassment and bias.

Hollywood and the media are already showing the effect. It’s no coincidence that The Today Show now has two female anchors. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has pledged to double its female and minority members by 2020. Actress Natalie Portman’s sneer in presenting the best director prize at the recent Golden Globe movie awards—“And here are the all-male nominees”—will become the standard response to any perceived lack of “diversity” in entertainment. The Wall Street Journal’s pop music critic, Jim Fusilli, for example, groused that females were underrepresented among Grammy award nominees. “No groups led by women are among the nominees in the Best Contemporary Instrumental, Best Jazz Instrumental, Best Large Jazz Ensemble and Best Contemporary Christian Music album categories. “There is no Grammy category comprised entirely of women,” he complained. Six female music industry executives then complained to the Recording Academy’s board of trustees that the Recording Academy’s leadership suffered from “inclusion issues across all demographics.” In response, management has penitently promised to overcome the “unconscious biases that impede female advancement” in the music industry.  The National Hispanic Media Coalition is planning to protest at the Academy Awards because of the paucity of Hispanic Oscar nominations. Even before the Hispanic protest, Hollywood execs were experiencing quota fatigue, given the pressures from feminist, LGBTQ, and disability activists to hire by identity category.    

The prospect of left-wing entertainment moguls having to sacrifice their box-office judgement to identity politics is an unalloyed pleasure and of little consequence to society at large. But bean-counting won’t be limited to Hollywood. Corporate diversity trainers already sense a windfall from #MeToo. Requests from organizations wanting to “explore further the intersection of power with diversity dimensions and inclusion” have recently increased, according to a “client success” manager at a major diversity-consulting firm. A rival Silicon Valley-based consultancy, Paradigm, sent around an email celebrating Oprah Winfrey’s #MeToo speech at the Golden Globes and reminding potential clients of “how much work needs to be done” regarding “inclusion.” “I absolutely think the broader cultural conversation is motivating organizations to take a more serious look at their cultures,” says Joelle Emerson, Paradigm’s leader. Corporate boardrooms, executive suites, and management structures will be scoured for gender and race imbalances. The advocacy group 50/50 by 2020, which argues for equal male and female representation in business, has recently received several new commitments from organizations pledging to achieve gender parity by the year 2020.

The art world will be hard hit. After harassment allegations surfaced against a publisher of the contemporary-art magazine ArtForum, the Los Angeles Times published a gender tally of art museum directorships. Females hold 48 percent of them—not a promising start for a diversity crusader. There is a silver lining, however: only three women run museums with annual budgets of more than $15 million, and they’re paid less than their male counterparts. It doesn’t matter if director salaries are commensurate with experience and credentials; sexism is assumed, and impossible to rebut.

Two months before the explosion of #MeToo, New York mayor Bill De Blasio anticipated the coming pressures on museum management. The city’s culture funding would henceforth be contingent on the diversity of an arts organization’s employees and board members, he announced. The New York Times helpfully pointed out that the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, and the American Museum of Natural History are led “largely by white male executives and power brokers from Wall Street, real estate and other industries.” Have those “white male executives” preserved the cultural patrimony bestowed by visionary collectors of the past? Did those “white male executives” generously donate millions of dollars to the institutions they serve? Who cares? The Times put a picture of conductor Andris Nelsons—a white man—performing at Carnegie Hall on the front page as a damning illustration of the problem.

What hangs on the walls of art museums and galleries is an equally inviting bean-counting target. In a sample of nearly 70 institutions analyzed by the Art Newspaper, females had solo shows only 27 percent of the time from 2007 to 2013. Female artists have graced the cover of Artforum only 18 percent of the time since the magazine’s inception. That is about to change. “The art world is misogynist,” Artforum’s new editor-in-chief David Velasco told the Los Angeles Times. “Art history is misogynist. Also, racist, classist, transphobic, able-ist, homophobic. I will not accept this. . . . Intersectional feminism is an ethics near and dear to so many on our staff.” The history of art that Velasco so derides has produced crushing beauty and profound insight into human nature. That is irrelevant to the coming crusade.

Individual artists will now be subjected to #MeToo litmus tests. Phony sexual-harassment charges against contemporary painter Chuck Close have led the National Gallery of Art in Washington to postpone indefinitely an upcoming exhibition. Museums will try to inoculate themselves against such purges by bulking up in advance on “diversity” acquisitions. They’ll need to expand the definition of who belongs in a museum by bringing in female artists and people of color, Tom Eccles, the executive director of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, told the New York Times.

Orchestra conductors will be evaluated based on their gender and race, especially after harassment allegations surfaced against Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine (those allegations involved gay sex but will be leveraged for feminist purposes) and against Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Charles Dutoit. Orchestra boards will pay penance for their own inadequate diversity by a mad rush on female conductors, whose numbers are minuscule. It was already difficult two years ago to land a U.S. conducting position for a universally esteemed white male conductor, reports the conductor’s agent. Now it would be nearly impossible, the agent believes.

Music critic Alex Ross triggered outrage against the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra last week when he tweeted that they had programmed no female composers in their 2018-2019 seasons. Never mind that over most of music history, the greatest composers have been male. At a time of diminishing classical music audiences, it is reckless to wield identity politics against our most important and precious musical institutions.  

The economics field has been hit with #MeToo diversity pressures. A panel at the annual American Economic Association meeting this January charged that gender discrimination was pervasive in economics, an argument that fit into the “larger national examination of bias and abuse toward women in the work force,” the New York Times reminded readers. If females are underrepresented on economics faculties, it is because of such insurmountable barriers as the percentage of male economists cited in leading college textbooks: 90 percent. Were there comparable female economists who could have been cited for the relevant proposition instead? Unlikely, but in any case, we don’t need to know. Is it possible to pursue intellectual inquiry out of love, rather than because you’re following someone of your own gender or race? Apparently not. The Times bemoaned the “shrinking pipeline of women in economics departments”: while females made up 33 percent of first-year Ph.D. students in 2016, only 13 percent of full-tenured professors were females in 2016. But it takes decades for graduating cohorts to work their way through the system; when those tenured economics professors were students, their cohort was much less than 33 percent female.

Economist Deirdre McCloskey rejects the idea that competitively qualified females are being excluded:  “There is nothing like discrimination on the part of hiring committees,” she says. Self-selection may come into play, however, she adds, since economics is a “macho field” that pays relatively little attention to the impact of females’ family roles on the timing of a scholarly career. Modern-day economics has grown increasingly math-based. The percentage of males who score in the upper range of the math SATs (scoring 700 or more on an 800-point scale) is nearly twice as high as the percentage of female high-scorers. Males outperform females on the macroeconomics and microeconomics AP exams. Males are also more competitive than females, economist Johanna Mollerstrom and others have shown. Such facts have a clear bearing on the composition of a “macho,” quantitative field like economics, but they are not allowed to be mentioned in any discussion of “diversity.” 

Stanford’s business school is claiming surprise at a recent whistleblower study showing that it favors females over males in awarding financial aid.  The chance that such a practice was inadvertent is zero.  But such female preferences in business and economics programs will only accelerate to combat an alleged culture of bias. This week, Dow Jones is rolling out IGNITE, a year-long program in leadership development to create a “truly diverse and inclusive senior leadership team.” Participants will receive executive sponsorship, coaching, and personality assessments, something that many aspiring top managers might value. Participation is limited to women, however, as part of Dow Jones’s campaign to reach 40 percent female executive leadership; that 40 percent target is only an initial target. Such efforts are undoubtedly underway at many major news outfits and will only redouble in urgency following #MeToo.

Silicon Valley is a #MeToo diversity bonanza waiting to happen. It’s not for nothing that the Mountain View headquarters of Google is referred to as the “Google campus”; the culture of the Silicon Valley behemoth is an echo chamber of shrill academic victimology. Managers and employees reflexively label dissenters from left-wing orthodoxy misogynists and racists, as revealed in a lawsuit filed against Google by computer engineer James Damore, fired last summer for questioning the premises of the company’s diversity policies. “Punching Nazis” is celebrated on Google chat boards. It is assumed that the lack of proportional representation of female, black, and Hispanic engineers at the company is due to implicit bias on the part of every other type of engineer.

#MeToo will further enflame the gender activists at Google and other big tech firms, who have also been trying to raise their percentage of females (and underrepresented minorities) for years. This February, a panel at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting will address the “cultural and institutional practices” that suppress female and underrepresented minority “voices” in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). But those “voices” have already been the target of hundreds of millions of dollars from government, foundations, businesses, and schools pouring into gender- and race-exclusive math and science programs. The results of such efforts, such as the Latinas in Tech initiative, run by the National Center for Women & Information Technology, or the overhyped Girls Who Code program, have been modest.

Among the reasons for that lack of results is career inclinations, but personal choice is disallowed as a factor in the deterministic, fault-seeking liberal worldview. Women in STEM fields are nearly twice as likely as male STEM workers to say that they seek a job that helps others, according to a Pew Research Center poll. It’s no surprise, therefore, that females are 75 percent of workers in health-related jobs, but only 25 percent of workers in computer jobs and 14 percent of engineering workers. While computer technology and engineering arguably help others as much as health care, the quotidian experience of such work involves less face-to-face interaction with other human beings, something that females on average seek.

It is curious that the #MeToo movement is concerned only with gender representation in particular occupational categories. For instance, most HVAC and refrigeration installers and mechanics are men, yet there is little outcry about getting more girls into vocational training for these jobs. Similarly, virtually all workers in the carting, moving, trucking, and mining industries are males, but female underrepresentation in these high-injury and high-fatality occupations has not sparked celebrity outrage.

As the #MeToo moment swells the demand for ever more draconian diversity mandates, a finding in the Pew Research Center poll on workplace equity is worth noting: the perception of bias is directly proportional to the number of years the perceiver has spent in an American university. Females in STEM businesses who have a postgraduate degree are more than three times as likely as STEM females without a college degree to say that their gender has impeded their success. It is doubtful that those highly educated female STEM workers are actually more subject to chauvinism than their less-educated counterparts. Their workplaces are likely composed of other highly educated products of the academy, marinated for years in an environment dominated by feminist thinking. Those are also the workplaces most subject to external pressures to achieve gender parity. All the incentives run in the opposite direction: away from chauvinism and toward favoring females over males at every possible opportunity. The persistent claim of gender bias is ideological, not empirical. But after #MeToo, it will have an even more disruptive effect.

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