How To Make Diversity Happen

There are several very basic misunderstandings of how things work when it come to engendering and encouraging diversity, and I’d like to make a few comments with the aim of clearing them up, at least partially. One example of a misunderstanding came up a while back when some of us were complaining about the number of Y-chromosomes represented in Richard Dawkins’ otherwise excellent science anthology, and I have been reminded of it more recently by the inexplicable blogarrhea coming from the general direction of the former John Loftus, who can’t stop complaining about (… oh never mind, it does not matter). In the end, it is all about how we make selections, which are samples of a larger population, and we make selections quite often.

1) All selection efforts are making a small aquarium from a large sea of fish.

This guideline was well underscored during the discussion of Dawkins’ book. Dawkins put together a volume of science writing that included almost no female representation. A similar book covering a somewhat different time period that I randomly pulled off my shelf had twice or three times as many women represented, and that volume was put together years earlier, during what may have been a less enlightened time. There were relatively few science papers by women that could have been used from the old days, because few women were allowed in science and those that did exist were either discouraged or disallowed from publishing. In order to advance our collective goals of supporting women in STEM, Dawkins’ anthology should have purposefully contained more women than an even sample would have represented, though of course it could not have contained a lot more. But, the anthology actually contained fewer. It seems as though there was never a moment’s consideration given to the question of gender diversity when compiling that volume.

During the commenting and conversation about this, several individuals (who did not understand what the anthology was or how it was constructed) made rather annoying statements such as “It was the top 100 writers … if you added a women in there that didn’t belong, then someone who deserved to be on that list would be bumped off,” or words to that effect. (In fact, there was not an arbitrary cut-off of 100 authors.)

The truth is that when putting together lists, anthologies, awards, or other similar things there is no such thing as an absolute scale. There is a great deal of subjectivity as to where an individual ranks in almost any comprehensive or achievement-based ranking scheme. Also, there is a much larger universe to draw from than people often realize. For any selection among a large enough category of individuals, there will be people you never heard of, didn’t consider while making your selection, and who were in the end ignored the entire time but who should not have been. Assuming this is true, and it is, then how can one assume that a selection of a hundred, or thirty, or a dozen, or whatever, of people to represent the “best of” something is an absolute immutable perfect subset? You can’t. The criteria are not as solid as one may think, and the population is not as perfectly sampled as one might think.

Therefore, an extra effort to locate and include underrepresented groups does not violate some golden rule of quality and quantity.

2) Underrepresented groups get under-represented even more during selection processes.

This is very important and in some cases it may be the main problem with enhancing diversity. I recently ran into this when I tried to put together a list of “diversity enhancing” bloggers to supply to a blog network to help guide future selections of bloggers to invite. Before you assume that I was making this list for the blog network you are now reading, I should mention that I’ve made about six of these lists for Scienceblogs.com and the list to which I refer may well have been one of those.

Let’s say you want to increase ethnic diversity on a list of potential bloggers. The best way to do this, and this is not my idea but, rather, how a lot of extant hiring and other selection processes already work, is to make a more diverse “mid list” (or long list) from which individuals will be selected based on their abilities, fit, availability, and so on. But if you look at bloggers in a given area, you might find that “ethnic” bloggers are more often part of existing networks, and therefore may seem less likely to be available to join a different network. In other words, if your goal is to recruit “indies” … individuals who are blogging at WordPress or a University site or some other platform, into a network like Scienceblogs.com, you might miss those bloggers who are already “not indie” because they are in a network. Now, suppose that being “ethnic” in a certain milieu tends to result in being part of a network. this can happen for a lot of reasons, including the fact that you are already part of a pertinents group that then goes and starts blogging, or perhaps it is a matter of security and comfort in an unfriendly context. There is one “black” blogging group that is about to start up as a bloggerific version of its non-bloggy self. Groups like Skepchick and Feminista may be this phenomenon manifest in the context of gender.

You see the point … a selection process seeking independent bloggers will systematically miss underrepresented or repressed groups because individuals in those groups self-select to be not indie as often as straight white guys do, and the reason you are looking for more diversity is the same as the reason that it is harder to find.

This phenomenon is a sub type of a larger set of phenomena that tend to make individuals we seek to promote diversity harder to find.

Another example, having to do with gender, is simply lifespan. Have you ever heard of a blogger starting out blogging, and then running into frequent harassment with the occasional scary event (like a credible or very obnoxious threat) happening now and then? It happens all the time. Have you ever heard of a blogger either turning off to blogging for longish periods of time because of this, or simply quitting? That happens now and then. Have you noticed that when this happens it is very often a female blogger? It is true it often is. I am engaged in a at least a dozen ongoing conversations with women who will blog, are blogging, or did blog where this is an issue. I’m not having this conversation with any guys.

If you want to develop a selection of individuals in any milieu including the blogosphere, to invite to a network, to give an award to, to put on your blogroll, and you want it to be diverse, you have to take this into account. Which brings us to the next item …

3) If you want diversity (and you do) you have to make it happen.

You can’t just say “I’m not biased” or “I’m not sexist” or “I’m not racist” and then expect the world to adjust to this noble sentiment and sort everything out for you. If you are in charge of making a list of people, to consider to give talks at a conference, to be on a panel, to invite to a radio show, to be in a blog network, to have their work chosen as part of an anthology or show, or for that matter to be your acquaintance or friend, even a facebook friend or a plussy, if you don’t pay attention to the composition of your list, the list will not manage attention to diversity for you.

You have to do it on purpose. You have to make it happen.

4) In this day and age, a selection process that does not address these issues IS a sexist or racist (or both) process, like it or not.

In the blogosphere, the world of atheism, and the world of skepticism, we are a little behind in these areas. Try sitting on a hiring committee of a modern University or College, or get a job where you are involved in graduate or undergraduate admissions, and you’ll learn that attention to important details such as diversity and balance is not only old hat but very much ingrained in the system. I find it astonishing when I run into people busily hiring, selecting, choosing people, and when the issue of diversity comes up they act like it has never been an issue before, or otherwise give signals indicating that this is something that was never part of the process for them before. There are large parts of this world where consideration of diversity and mechanisms for enhancing diversity are very much commonplace.

There are even systems which, for many years now, have required gender parity. The process of selecting delegates for political representation, that attend conventions and pick candidates, is often a gender-balanced one. At the very first stage of selecting delegates for the Minnesota DFL party, one male and one female is put forth for each of the smallest political units, and as the delegates continue from one step to the next in the primary, caucus, and convention process, fifty-fifty parity is maintained the entire time.

When you are involved in a selection process, in a decision making role, and you don’t account for diversity, then you are being a bad person! Or at least, if you are operating in a milieu where this has become normal, you’re defiantly doing it wrong. It is no longer acceptable in the skeptical and atheist community to put together lists of speakers for conferences that include only white males. As recently as a year or two ago, it apparently was, which is rather shocking. Despite living in a backwards and unenlightened community (skeptics and atheist!), the truth is that the importance of diversity has been known since before you were born, if you are of an average age. Approaches to developing diversity have existed and been widely used for long, long before it ever occurred to the organizers of many well known skeptics and atheists conferences to use those approaches. And I have to admit that I’m a little annoyed at About.com right now. Austin Cline is over at About.com, and has a reader’s choice award for “Favorite Agnostic or Atheist Blog“, “Favorite Agnostic or Atheist Book” and “Favorite Agnostic/theist to follow on twitter.” These involve reader nominations, some sort of narrowing down based on votes, and then a short list from which readers can chose by clicking on a web form. If you look at the lists at this stage, they tend to be very white and pretty much male in the first two categories (though interestingly very female in the hipper but less well established, twitter category). In other words, they tend to lack diversity.

UPDATE: Austin Cline has written a post about this.

Yes, yes, yes I know, I know what some people are going to say … this is what the readers picked, therefore it represents what is “out there” and that is just the way it is. If you want diversity, Laden, get it some other way because this is a simple direct sampling of who is out there in the world to be chosen from.

That sentiment, quaint as it is, is wrong for several reasons. First, we want to increase above background levels the representation of underrepresented groups, even just a little, for a number of reasons that are so blindingly obvious I won’t extend this already too long post to enumerate them (if you really don’t know, ask in the comments). Second, see above; the selection process is likely to underrepresented underrepresented groups more than they are already underrepresented, and I strongly suspect this happens during the public voting, nomination, and polling methods that today plague the Internet.

Then there is the argument that this is just the way it is because only a proper voting process can be used or freedom of speech, due process, and several other constitutional amendments will be violated and our basic freedoms will vaporize and civilization will collapse. But there is a problem with that argument. Two problems, really.

First, the system is broke with respect to diversity enhancement, so please stop using it. There is no reason in the world that any particular process of nomination, voting, or polling MUST BE USED or the world ends. If we recognize that on one hand we want increased diversity and at the same time we want some sort of community based consensus, then surely we can figure out how to get there using technology and conversation and ideas and stuff! I mean, really, this is the 21st century. We can solve this problem. The second problem with this excuse is that the system is broke anyway. On-line voting systems are all broken and stupid. To be honest, I’m not sure of all of the technical details of how Austin did this, so maybe he’s got a less broke system. But I know this kind of system is broken in general when the science category of the once venerable “webbies” is populated almost entirely with science denialist sites. There are certain things for which crowd sourcing is not the way to go.

I don’t mean to pick on Austin Cline or About. I think they do a great job at getting the word out, and these problems with diversity (or lack thereof) are widespread within our own communities. Its just that this particular set of selections is out now, current, and a friend of mine (who will also be blogging about this) has pointed them out.

Can we start thinking of better, creative, and more productive ways to carry out these selection processes that we all seem to be so interested in?

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41 Responses to How To Make Diversity Happen

  1. Greg Laden says:

    John, I don’t think you are against diversity. I would hope you are for it. However, you did speak disrespectfully and ignorantly and incorrectly about someone using the “diversity card” (as it were) and did so because you were in a snit about someone else. I’m sure you are pro-diversity intellectualism, but the snide remark you made was counterproductive and spiteful.

    It would be nice if you addressed that, perhaps either sticking with your guns (demonstrating that Natalie offers nothing new to a blog network and is essentially a worthless add) or perhaps backtracking a bit and even saying you are sorry for having thrown her under the bus for your own purposes.

    See, it is quite possible for someone to be “pro diversity” in spirit or mind but to do less than an excellent job at promoting diversity. One of the more harmful things you can do is to make claim that arbitrarily chosen “hires” are tokenism (when they are not). Another way to hurt diversity building is to co-opt real live discussions about diversity for your own not-about-diversity arguments.

  2. “One of the more harmful things you can do is to make claim that arbitrarily chosen “hires” are tokenism (when they are not).”

    Been there. Been there been there been there.

    (Was amazed to find self there, too. Kept thinking “Really? Really? This, still?”

  3. Pingback: Derangierte Einsichten - Süddeutsche, Diversity, VIVA, Oscars

  4. Flimsyman says:

    Okay, so I want to be pro-diversity. Ferociously so.

    It also seems to me, at this juncture, that “arbitrarily chosen hires” simply for the sake of diversity is kind of actually the literal definition of tokenism.

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tokenism

    So I see people strongly insisting that diversity should be the goal, for example, by including women science writers not because of their merit, but simply to make sure that there are some women in there. Alongside this, it’s pointed out that calling this “tokenism” is very harmful to diversity.

    In all the discussion of diversity issues lately, I can’t find an actual argument for using a different definition of “tokenism,” or any other way in which I’ve managed to get so completely screwed up on this issue. Any ideas of where I could go to get the 101 on this explained better to me?

  5. So I see people strongly insisting that diversity should be the goal, for example, by including women science writers not because of their merit, but simply to make sure that there are some women in there.

    Where the hell do you see that?

  6. Greg Laden says:

    So I see people strongly insisting that diversity should be the goal, for example, by including women science writers not because of their merit, but simply to make sure that there are some women in there.

    I know my post is a bit long and it may be hard to find all the points in there, but really, I did address this.

  7. ischemgeek says:

    @Flimsyman: Tokenism = hiring people to create the appearance of inclusiveness while not giving them anything important to do, putting effort into your part of their career or offering any real opportunities for advancement. Think the glass ceiling, the black guy who’s the first to die in horror flicks, and the obnoxiously stereotyped gay shopkeeper in a romantic-comedy.

    Hiring with diversity in mind = making an effort to have your fully-qualified hires be representative of the general population while still giving them responsibilities and opportunities just like their privileged counterparts.

    Big difference.

  8. Desert Son, OM says:

    Flimsyman at #6:

    So I see people strongly insisting that diversity should be the goal, for example, by including women science writers not because of their merit, but simply to make sure that there are some women in there.

    One of the problems that has come out of institutionalized racism and sexism is that on one hand there’s this idea of “hiring on merit” and on the other hand there isn’t actually much culture of hiring on merit.

    In other words, companies (as just one example of a hiring arena) may claim to want to be “colorblind/sexblind” and hire on merit, but the reality is they often don’t hire on merit at all, and instead women get passed over, or get hired with their appearance as a significant predictor, and whites still get hired over equally qualified Blacks.

    News flash: the meritocracy is a myth! Also, the cake is a lie!

    Alongside the fact that many hires are not based on merit is another feature of long-standing institutionalized racism and sexism, which is that many minorities and women have, by virtue of a system that disenfranchises and discredits them, not had access to paths of success.

    In other words, a major contributing factor for why there aren’t more Black, Latino, Indian, Native American, Pacific Islander, East Asian, Romani, women, and LGBTQ members (to name just a few) in more fields like science and math disciplines is not because those groups don’t produce meritorious individuals, it’s because those groups haven’t been given the same shot at meritorious achievement. Hence the need to make more effort to hire diversity, as a way to increase the visibility of those diverse individuals in those areas traditionally cordoned off, and thereby encourage more representatives across broader ranges to strive to want those opportunities. It also helps break down the deliberate structure of inequality that has existed for so long. Medicine and law are two fields that have seen increasing numbers of women in the last 20 years as practitioners, and that’s a good thing, because it helps unseat the “good old boys club” and also demonstrates greater opportunity to other women. This is not to say that there isn’t room for improvement in both medicine and law.

    Parallel to all of this is (at least in the United States) another cultural myth, which is that in the U.S., people “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and that is so much bovine excrement. Individuals achieve in societies in no small part precisely because of support systems, infrastructure, social cooperation, scaffolding, broad education initiatives and availability, public safety, and more.

    In addition to being a morally right thing to do, it’s actually in society’s (and societies’) interest(s) to broaden the social framework that helps more people and heightens visibility of more people (especially those that have been disenfranchised) in roles. It’s actually a good thing.

    The U.S. has a myth of meritocracy, and it’s been bought into for too long. It also has a myth of hyper-individualism, that is simply demonstrably untrue (and one of the things that drives me nuts about economic/market-as-god libertarianism). Lastly, it continues to reinforce a toxic view of the workplace in strictly zero-sum terms, as if hiring more women or minorities in roles means that all the white cis heterosexual male jobs will suddenly end. Actually, what it really means is that white cis heterosexual male privilege will diminish, and that’s also a good thing that’s actually in the interest of the society at large (which is definitely not made up only of white cis heterosexual males).

    Also, to any aspiring rock/punk bands out there, if you haven’t yet chosen a name for your band or first album, I humbly submit Sexblind as a worthy candidate. You’re welcome.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  9. Flimsyman says:

    @Greg and Stephanie;

    **shrug** I apologize, but I’ve read the post three times, very carefully.

    The specific failures of diversity that are mentioned are, as far as I can tell: 1. Dawkins’ compilation, and 2. the Reader’s Choice Awards at about.com. In neither case are there any suggestions for additional women, people of color, etc. who would have been excellent to include. There are countless exhortations be mindful of diversity, but no actual direct statement acknowledging the competency of the minorities that we’re trying to include.

    I’m not saying that every single paragraph, or even every blog post, needs to list the names and accomplishments of minorities for inclusion, I’m just saying that when enough blog posts and articles like this one extol diversity but don’t actually acknowledge the merit of the work of the minorities in question, even when specific instances are brought up, then yeah, I do think that it’s reasonable for people to think that some degree of tokenism is going on.

  10. Greg said: “However, you did speak disrespectfully and ignorantly and incorrectly about someone using the “diversity card” (as it were) and did so because you were in a snit about someone else. I’m sure you are pro-diversity intellectualism, but the snide remark you made was counterproductive and spiteful.”

    Yes, I am so sorry for that. I let my emotions get away with me. Again, sorry.

    As I said on Carrier’s blog, I’m sure Natalie is a fine contributor here.

  11. Flimsyman says:

    “Tokenism = hiring people to create the appearance of inclusiveness while not giving them anything important to do …”

    Yes, and I’m afraid that this is exactly the impression given when thousands of words insist on diversity for it’s own sake, without any specific mention of the actual accomplishments of minorities.

    “making an effort to have your fully-qualified hires be representative of the general population …”

    … which, in my opinion, necessarily involves discussing the merits and accomplishments of the minorities in question, to show that they are absolutely as fully-qualified as more privileged individuals, because that merit is far too easily overlooked in the first place. That’s the discussion I think needs to happen, that I’d like to see, is all I’m sayin’.

  12. Flimsyman says:

    “… there isn’t actually much culture of hiring on merit.”

    That’s absolutely true! You couldn’t be more correct.

    … but there should be.

    That’s all I’m saying. People absolutely do need reminding of the blunt, factual merits of oppressed minorities, because uber-privileged people like myself overlook them so easily, even totally subconsciously. Without that, a discussion of diversity for it’s own sake can, at least, easily come across as tokenism to both the privileged and minorities.

  13. Greg Laden says:

    The specific failures of diversity that are mentioned are, as far as I can tell: 1. Dawkins’ compilation, and 2. the Reader’s Choice Awards at about.com. In neither case are there any suggestions for additional women, people of color, etc. who would have been excellent to include.

    a) irrelevent. wasn’t my intent and b) not true, such suggestions were made in the earlier discussion of Dawkins book, and in fact, I cite here in this very blog post evidence that there could have been more women considered.

  14. Greg Laden says:

    John, thanks for your comment.

  15. Greg Laden says:

    Yes, and I’m afraid that this is exactly the impression given when thousands of words insist on diversity for it’s own sake, without any specific mention of the actual accomplishments of minorities.

    Again, you are not talking about this post, because I explicitly and clearly addressed that issue.

    That’s all I’m saying. People absolutely do need reminding of the blunt, factual merits of oppressed minorities, because uber-privileged people like myself overlook them so easily, even totally subconsciously. Without that, a discussion of diversity for it’s own sake can, at least, easily come across as tokenism to both the privileged and minorities.

    I think you are partly getting what I’m saying, but by osmosis becuase you’re not giving due credit to the OP.

    I am being repressed.

  16. Flimsyman says:

    You … are being … repressed?

    Okay, I’ll be blunt. Look, if you did directly mention the merit and accomplishments of minorities in this post, instead of simply extolling diversity for it’s own sake, then my criticism is completely wrong and off-base, yes! Absolutely.

    I’ve now read this post four times, very carefully, and I cannot find a single such mention. Other people that I’ve asked about this discussion can’t find such a thing, either. So I’m very sorry, I really don’t want to sound entitled, but I just can’t find what is apparently right in front of my nose. If you want to convince me, you’ll have to give me actual evidence, i.e., maybe quote the relevant part of the post?

  17. ashleyjones says:

    I agree with Flimsyman’s assertion that including specific examples of women or minorities who should be included in things like Dawkin’s compilations or the Reader’s Choice award and some of their achievements would be a better way of talking about inclusion.

  18. Greg Laden says:

    I think what the two of you are looking for is not there. You are looking for me to demonstrate that brown gay and female people are good enough to be included on lists of people who are important or should be recognized, etc. Until you see me say that, you’re assuming that it may not be true.

    My post was not about that. My post was about how assuming that there is a pool of individuals, that regardless of merit, there are reasons why meritourous brown gay and female persons may be left off the list that they otherwise deserve to be on. Mechanisms for this were discussed in the section of my post entitled “2) Underrepresented groups get under-represented even more during selection processes.”

    The complaint that adding a brown person will knock off a qualified pink person is a falsehood, and that is discussed in the section of my post entitled “1) All selection efforts are making a small aquarium from a large sea of fish.”

  19. ashleyjones says:

    “I think what the two of you are looking for is not there. You are looking for me to demonstrate that brown gay and female people are good enough to be included on lists of people who are important or should be recognized, etc. Until you see me say that, you’re assuming that it may not be true.”

    No, actually, I’m looking for you to say something along the lines of “Dawkins’s compilation should’ve included people like Debbie Goddard, John Corvino, etc. They’re just as accomplished as X or Y but they’ve got blah, blah, blah, that makes them a better choice than so and so.” (I don’t know who exactly is on his list but I can name many women and minorities who should be if they’re not) I want to know who you feel should’ve been on there who wasn’t. I would like to see more specificity.

  20. Greg Laden says:

    “No, actually, I’m looking for you to say something along the lines of ”

    No? You said “name the people” and I said “it sounds like you are asking me to name people” and you say “No, I’m not doing that. I’m asking you to name people.”

    Are you seriously telling me that you are not comfortable with the assumption that there are non-white non-straight non-male people deserving of recognition? Or that somehow it is my job to prove that to you?

    And yes, yes, I really did make a specific suggestion in the post on Dawkins, and there was discussion.

    Do you know how to click on a link?

  21. ashleyjones says:

    “Are you seriously telling me that you are not comfortable with the assumption that there are non-white non-straight non-male people deserving of recognition? Or that somehow it is my job to prove that to you?”

    As a black woman, yeah, I’m very comfortable with the assumption (and fact!) that there are non-white, non-straight, non-male people who deserve recognition. I specifically pointed to two of them myself. I’m merely asking for your opinion of who you would’ve liked to have seen included.

    “And yes, yes, I really did make a specific suggestion in the post on Dawkins, and there was discussion.”
    Are you refering to Jocelyn Bell Burnell? That’s a good suggestion but since you’ve made another post I was assuming that there were more people you might also want to mention.

    Do you know how to click on a link?
    I do! That’s how I got here actually. No need to be condescending. I looked at your other post but there’s still not a listing of the women who are included. Admittedly I might’ve missed them. However, I did see your 3.6% figure and while it’s good to know that there are so few women that number doesn’t tell me who the women were.

  22. Greg Laden says:

    OK, fine then. Keep in mind that the list of papers for Dawkin’s book is “science writing” not “Science writers” … you have to be a scientist, writing.

    One of the problems with the later 19th century and much of the 20th century is that a lot of work was done by women who were not allowed to publish at all, though their contributions were at least as important as are the modern day contributions by people who get their names on work. (Henrietta Leavitt is an obvious case .. her work ultimately led to the discovery of the nature and orign of the universe) If one is going to put together a science anthology those people need to be included, but if we stick with the “one person, one paper” approach (as all anthologies do) that will never happen.

    Just as with swampable internet polls, the basic method is flawed.

    (As a side note, for the 19th century, putting names on writing is actually complicate by the fact that authorship and publication were thought of differently. The “voyage” volume on birds by Gould is mostly written by Darwin, but he’s not an author. The expertise to get the species ID’s right and organize the whole book is from Gould. Much of what Darwin wrote is adapted by Darwin via Gould’s information, probably; And Darwin is the series editor. THe monograph should have been “Darwin and Gould” or “Gould and Darwin” but it is not)

  23. Once again, Flimsyman’s assertion is that someone, somewhere insisted that minorities should be included regardless of merit. No one has said that. Or at least, Flimsyman has not provided evidence of anyone saying that. He’s simply said that no specific people of merit were named in this post. That’s a very different assertion. It’s also irrelevant to this post, which is about making sure that people with merit are not left out because of the many ways in which minorities with merit tend to be left out.

    So, again, who’s saying we just need to throw any old minority in there?

  24. Stacy says:

    If you want diversity (and you do) you have to make it happen….
    You have to do it on purpose.

    QFT. And it starts with learning to really see people who are different from yourself. Which is something all humans have trouble doing (we evolved to be tribal), and an ongoing process.

  25. ischemgeek says:

    That’s absolutely true! You couldn’t be more correct.

    … but there should be.

    That’s all I’m saying. People absolutely do need reminding of the blunt, factual merits of oppressed minorities, because uber-privileged people like myself overlook them so easily, even totally subconsciously. Without that, a discussion of diversity for it’s own sake can, at least, easily come across as tokenism to both the privileged and minorities.

    But 1) that wasn’t the point of Greg’s post. He’s saying, “Here’s how to fix this problem that most people acknowledge but don’t know how to fix.” and you’re saying, “But I want to be reminded that it’s a problem and want to go over the evidence again!”

    2) The culture of real merit-based hiring won’t happen until the traditional biases and prejudices are knocked down, stomped on and ground into the dirt. The only way to do that is to get people under-represented highly qualified and able people out there and represented.

    To do that, you have to take diversity into conscious consideration.

  26. Pingback: Diversity and the Best Atheist Blogger Award – Please Don’t Vote for Me | Greta Christina's Blog

  27. Azkyroth says:

    So I see people strongly insisting that diversity should be the goal, for example, by including women science writers not because of their merit, but simply to make sure that there are some women in there. Alongside this, it’s pointed out that calling this “tokenism” is very harmful to diversity.

    The problem starts with your assumption that “women science writers” and “people who deserve to be included because of their merit” are exclusive, even though you’re probably not going to own up to thinking that way.

  28. Looks like cross-blog pingbacks are broken again, so, um, ping.

    Not one of us is a token.

    (Pardon the shameless self-promo!)

  29. Greg Laden says:

    Thanks, I’ll add in that link or write a meta when I get near a usable keyboard

  30. Steve Schuler says:

    Greg,

    I’ve got to admit that I find a bit of irony in your expression of annoyance with Austin Cline and your accusation that his contest failed to provide sufficient racial diversity. Racial diversity evidently is not a criterion that you consistently employ in critiquing the work of others, as evidenced by absolutely no mention of racial diversity (one way or another) in your criticism of Dawkins anthology of science writers. In that instance your sole expressed concern was that females were unfairly underrepresented. I am left to wonder if had you ascertained that the number of female science writers included in that anthology were sufficient to meet your sensibilities, that you might not have continued to assess whether a sufficient proportion of non-white science writers had been included as well.

    I say this because that is evidently what you have done with your evaluation of the candidates that appeared in Austin’s final selections. In the category of Best Blogger, 2 of the 5 (40%) of the contestants are females, one of those being queer if that should be a concern to anyone but themselves. In the category of Best Twitterer 4 of 5 (80%) are females, I have no idea about any of their sexual orientations, although it may have importance in evaluating the appropriate diversity of the contestant pool. In the Best Book category all of the finalists are apparently male, needless to say 0% female. Again, I have no idea as to their sexual orientations. In these 3 categories, the categories that you provided links to in your article, the average is 40% female and 60% male, a proportion that is somewhat less than optimal but possibly sufficient. While assessing gender diversity was the endpoint of your criticism of Dawkins book, in the matter of Austin’s contest you went on to evaluate whether or not sufficient racial diversity was represented and given that all of these categories were composed entirely of ‘white’ people, it is indisputable that there is no racial diversity present.

    While I can appreciate your disappointment, to be honest, I do not share it. As you are probably aware, the initial pool of candidates from which Austin made his selection for finalists was composed entirely of nominations made by his readers. I have no means of determing what the race, gender, sexual orientation, etc…, of that pool of candidates consisted of, and neither do I have any idea what other criteria Austin employed to determine who the finalist would be. While you have repeatedly stated that there ‘should’ be a sufficient number of worthy candidates that might satisfy your sense of sufficient diversity in Austin’s contest, you have failed to substantiate your claim with specific examples. I do not think that it is fair of you to criticize Austin for a perceived failure on his part when you are unwilling to step up and provide an adequate number of non-white candidates that might help him acheive a level of racial diversity that you can abide. I have no reason to doubt that such individuals are available, but it is not an area (atheist activism) in which I have sufficient knowledge to address who these people might be. Given that it is a fairly significant concern of yours, and in your field of expertise as well, rather than just criticizing Austin for what you perceive as shortcomings of the racial diversity in his contest, it might be more constructive to provide alternative non-white candidates in all of the contest categories to help resolve this problem.

    Of course, another option would be to conduct a contest of your own design which would afford you the opportunity to ‘lead by example’, perhaps the best mode of instruction.

  31. Greg Laden says:

    Steve, you seem to be making two claims here. One is that I only care about certain kinds of diversity. The other is that the pool of excellence in atheism and agnosticism does not include very much diversity to begin with. Have I got that right?

  32. Steve Schuler says:

    Greg,

    My criticism is that in the case of Dawkins you only employed gender diversity as the criterion of establishing acceptable diversity, in the case of Austin you seemed to add the additional criterion of racial diversity to establish a suitable level of diversity in his project, Austin having apparently attained sufficient gender diversity.

    As I mentioned in my initial post, I have no idea what the pool of atheist/skeptic bloggers, authors, tweeters, etc., consists of as pertains to race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., although I have no reason to doubt that there are sufficient eligible and worthy individuals as you suggest.

    Hope this helps clear things up. Feel free to ask further questions.

    Steve

  33. Greg Laden says:

    There is no meaning to the fact that the discussion of Dawkin’s book was about the absence of women, other than that there was an absence of women. The discussion of that topic is not an endorsement of any sort of policy or approach that ignores other forms of diversity. I find that suggestion absurd, and frankly, annoying. There are things that do not come up in many conversations. We have not discussed Cruelty to Unicorns during the present thread. Does that mean that we hate Unicorns?

  34. Steve Schuler says:

    Greg,

    I’m still hoping that you will find time in your busy schedule to make a satisfactory list of alternate non-white candidates suitably qualified for the multiple categories in Austin’s contest. Having operated alongside Greta Christina to publicy chastise Mr. Cline for his alleged failure to put together an adequately diverse popularity contest, without also providing substantive evidence that a sufficiently large pool of non-white candidates actually exists, certainly warrants this effort on your part at this time. Had you written your article dealing only in the hypothetical and abstract of how and why one might increase diversity, no harm would have been done. When you chose to include Austin and his contest as an example of an allegedly easily avoided diversity failure, I think that you may have unwittingly stumbled into a domain which you might better have stayed out of.

    Frankly, I could give a flying frog about popularity contests and who, or what, and why anybody is selected as a candidate. While I am neither a friend or acquaitance of Austin’s, it does bother me to see his character and competency sullied as you and Greta have done. This is not a concern about an abstract or hypothetical category of persons, but rather a concern over a real flesh and blood individual with real thoughts and feelings.

    Again, I hope that you follow through and provide a sufficient pool of alternate candidates that meet your diversity criteria. Aside from that, you might consider offering a public apology to Austin for using him as a poorly considered example of a diversity failure he could not have easily avoided.

    Sincerely

    Steve

    PS. I am cross posting a similar version of this to Christina’s blog, as I did my previous comment

  35. Steve Schuler says:

    Greg,

    It’s too bad that you find my conversation annoying, obviously I find your article and your subsequent failure to address it’s shortcomings somewhat annoying, else I would not be challenging you on what I perceive your shortcomings to be.

    So answer me this, why did you NOT also address racial and sexual orientation diversity in the Dawkins book? Are gender, race, sexual orientation, etc., considerations NOT always concerns you address when evaluating whether or not your criterion for diversity are met for anything you are evaluating on the basis of exhibiting satisfactory levels of diversity? This is not an unduly abstract or complex matter and I am somewhat surprised that you are having a difficult time grasping it.

    My post preceeding this may have already helped you better understand my primary complaints. Further conversation is welcome if you are amenable to it.

    Steve

  36. Greg Laden says:

    Steve, let’s clear up a little protocol first. You don’t get to invite me to converse on my blog. Second, your “comments” are not posts, they are comments.

    Your question is absurd, asked and answered. Very clearly, in fact. Now, run along.

  37. Steve Schuler says:

    You da boss, man!

    Happy hunting in your self appointed role as vigilante diversity cop!

    Adios!

    El SteveO

  38. jonathan swift says:

    Man, that guy was a dick. Bye bye Steve. Good thing you will be cross posting all of this in case a meteor hits Greg’s blog.

  39. Steve Schuler says:

    Greg,

    Thanks for posting my last comment. I guess posting a comment doesn’t qualify it as a post, but I only recently learned that.

    I noticed it was in moderation when I submitted it and wondered if it would pass editorial review. I see that it did, much to your credit. And sense I believe in giving credit where credit is due, that’s what I’m doing.

    Later Dude!

    Steve

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