Pay Parity, Gender Diversity and All Things Equal

The past few weeks have been a bumpy ride for the folks at Google  - and before hand Uber was the center of a pretty big scandal.


What was portrayed in the Google letter was completely wrong - but also completely right as well!!

All should be treated in an equal and respectful way. There is a Mitzvah (a good deed) mentioned in the Book of Vayikra (Leviticus) Chapter 19, verse 18, which says - “Love your neighbor - like you love yourself”. This has been a cornerstone of Judaism from the beginning - where we are committed to treating others in a fair way - the same we treat ourselves. Do not cause harm unto others - the same way you would not want others to harm you. Looking down upon others - just because they are different than you - is completely wrong. Excluding others from an equal opportunity because they are different than you - is completely wrong.

I do not care care if you are Jewish, Christian or Muslim
(forgive me if I have left out other religions - I just go with what I am familiar here in Israel).

I do not care if you are white, black, brown, yellow, or green.

I do not care if you are American, Israeli, Jordanian, Chinese or Cuban.

I do not care if you are Romulan, Klingon, Elf, Dwarf or Hobbit.

I do not care if you are male, female, gay, lesbian, transgender or bi-sexual.

What I value are your capabilities and if you are the right fit for the position at hand.

That is the way the world should be, but unfortunately that is not the case today. There are minorities in the world that are consistently discriminated against - based upon religion, sexual preference, skin color and other reasons. This has been the way the world behaves from the early days of the human race. Countless numbers of wars have been waged over time - because of these discriminations, minorities and religious beliefs. There is still animosity and oppression based on this in our world today.

Let’s take another completely different example. Gender equality in the army and specifically in Israel.

There has been a (amongst other things also a religious) debate about making the army gender equal - including allowing women to serve in the armored corps (tank) units. Making women fully equal soldiers in all tank units.

I will go out on a limb and say something that might be considered blasphemy in some circles - and might be new to some.

Men and women are not the same. They are not built the same.

  • They have different physiology
  • They have different bone mass
  • They are not able to carry the same weight
  • They cannot run at the same speed

This is not discrimination - this the way we were created - we are different.

This does not mean that all women are slower than men, that all women are less strong then men. There the exceptional cases. I will never be able to run the 100m sprint as fast Florence Griffith Joiner. But no matter how much they try a man has always run the 100m sprinter faster than a woman.

A tank shell weighs about 35 kilos. Can a woman lift that weight - I assume so. Can all women lift that weight? I would assume not.

How are soldiers trained to prepare themselves for these combat situations? During their training they are modeled to carry this weight - gradually. They are taught different techniques of how to manage this weight, all of this to allow them to do the job they need to do.

The job that is ultimately defeat the enemy during times of war.

The army knows that women cannot endure the same weight that men can, numerous studies have been conducted over the years on the medical implications that the huge amount of stress has on the female anatomy. The solution they come up with is to reduce the requirements, women would carry less, they have a different effort bar than men, with different milestones.

And all of this is in the name of gender equality - because for some this has become the main objective for the Israeli military. And unfortunately they have forgotten what the main objective is - and that is:

To defeat the enemy in the time of war.

If a woman cannot perform the exact same job, cannot carry the same weight, run the same distance, exert the same amount of strength and force as a man and as result they fail to meet the objective that was set out for them - then the principle of equality has defeated the purpose was set out to achieve.

Back to the business world.

There are many companies, open source organization and even countries or governments that boast their policy of affirmative action, providing preference to minorities in certain positions. There are even certain jobs that if you do not belong to one of those minorities - you need not even apply.

Why are we looking to promote certain positions for certain minorities (and I am on purpose using the word minority and ignoring gender)? Because we as a business are looking to present ourselves company that is looking to make the world a better place, a world where things where equality is a value.

Unfortunately - there are times where this not only is part of us making the world a better place - it becomes more than this - it becomes a principal value - sometimes it exceeds all of our other principals. It becomes the one and only thing that that outweighs all others.

Each company has its set of principles (and I do not pretend to know what the principles of Google are) and that is what they should live by.

In my honest opinion most commercial companies are there to make themselves money. There are some that their sole purpose is to make the world a better place - but if that is the only thing they wish to do - then they should invest all their effort and resources in doing so. They should hire underprivileged people even if they are not qualified for the job. They should promote minorities - even when they are not qualified for the job. And that is probably the way their business runs.

(Again I wish to stress this does not mean that those who fill these positions will not do any less good a job as an a qualified individual)

If you are presented with two candidates - one less qualified but fits your diversity values and another that more qualified but does not come with the correct minority background - it becomes a question of which of your values matters more at that current time.

It will depend on a case by case basis. Take this theoretical scenario.

You have a team that comprises of sexist, catholic, chauvinist, white males (not going into the case of that should even happen), and they all work very well together as a team. A possible highly qualified candidate comes up - female, lesbian, not white - and not Christian. She meets the diversity goals in the company perfectly and aligns properly with the values you are trying to embed into your company.

Would you hire her to join the team?

Will she feel comfortable? Will there be sexist remarks made during the day (even if they are not appropriate)? The out of the ordinary outcome would be that they all learn to live together in one team, excel and exceed even the highest expectations. But most cases would not end so happily.

It will probably disrupt the team, could lead to inappropriate behavior in the workplace, bad publicity, and even lawsuits and financial loss.

So what am I trying to say?

Diversity is great. Equality is righteous and we should all aspire to make the world a better place. But as a hiring manager, an owner of the business (and again assuming this aligns with your business values and principles) your goal is to make sure that the company makes money, that the employees perform as a well oiled machine to continue to make money for the company.

The outcry that arose from the Google manifesto - was justified for the discriminative remarks against women - but I am afraid that the valid points made were moved out of focus. Was it the right thing to say - maybe not in this specific case - where the diversity value is one of the primary principles in Google. But it does not mean that the things in the document regarding preference of some people just because they belong to the correct minority group - even if there are others who more qualified - are not true. There are those who think that diversity is not and should not be the ultimate goal in a company.

It is not a bad thing to say that we should hire the best person for the job - even if they do not make us look like a more equal opportunity or a gender diverse company.

Men and women are different. Forcing everyone to think that we are 100% equal in every single way is not natural, and should not be a goal in and of itself.

Should men and women have equal opportunity? Hell yes.

Should men and women receive equal pay for the same work? Yes!

Should a women receive preference over a man just because she is a woman / a minority / not equally represented? Hell no!!

That is as much gender discrimination as a male getting preference over a female.

Forcing people who are more qualified and better suited out of certain positions just because they are not the right gender/color/religion/sexual preference is in my opinion a big mistake - and one will in the end only have a negative effect on your business.

I am not saying that women should not pursue tech careers - I hope and believe they should continue to pursue their goals like anyone else - regardless of their gender.

I will repeat the first part of this post once more.

  • I do not care if you are white, black, brown, yellow, or green.
  • I do not care if you are American, Israeli, Jordanian, Chinese or Cuban.
  • I do not care if you are Romulan, Klingon, Elf, Dwarf or Hobbit.
  • I do not care if you are male, female, gay, lesbian, transgender or bi-sexual.

What I value are your capabilities and if you are the right fit for the position at hand.

I sincerely hope that if we all value people for what they can do - and not based on which tag you wish to pin on them - that will be proper equality.

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.