I'm hoping my question is less broad than this one. I work in tech and see many emails about diversity from our upper management.

In some sense, I can see this being used as a PR tactic: management wants the company to look diverse because the shareholders care about the public image of the company and don't want it to look like some kind of exclusionary club... but how can one know if motivations for diversity and inclusion are anything more than a PR move? As far as I can tell, this is unknowable.

Moreover, assuming a company had no need for PR (maybe a large, private company with no real media presence,) would the policy of diversity and inclusion actually have any benefits over using raw meritocratic measurements in interviews? Meritocracy or a "competence hierarchy" does a fine job in allowing a person's performance to qualify him/her for a position - so why would diversity policies be needed to "augment" or replace this?

Note that I am not assuming that the recruiting process is done by biased people who only want to surround themselves with people who look alike - I am specifically asking why do unbiased people believe that some (non-PR) utility would be provided to their companies by hiring a more diverse staff instead of simply relying on meritocracy itself?

I have heard that racial/gender diversity provides a company with more "cognitive diversity" - but is such an idea valid? Do recruiters actually believe in a "latino way of thinking" or a "female way of thinking" as if they were trying to create a company culture using individuals as recipe ingredients? In my mind, it is stereotypical to judge an individual as a member of a group without knowing them personally.. but perhaps I have failed to grasp the concept of "cognitive diversity"? Thanks in advance.

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    Little bit opinionated tone the title has. Maybe you can make it sound a bit more neutral? This is an important question and it needs a good answer.
    – leymannx
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 7:43
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    I am not assuming that the recruiting process is done by biased people. You assume away the major reason for diversity policy. That's a bit like asking what's the point of our company's fire drills, assuming that there will never be a fire. For a concrete example of bias, see the video in Glen Pierce's answer below. Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 12:28
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    Possible duplicate of Why is diversity in the workplace important?
    – eirikdaude
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 13:02
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    For the purposes of this question, can we define what constitutes diversity? May we assume we're talking about demographics?
    – rath
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 13:11
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    This question would be far more valuable if it didn't come with some massive, unsupported assumptions written in, e.g. the presumption that "meritocracy" is something that can be easily and objectively applied. It's like asking "why do people like riding horses, when unicorns are so much better?" I agree with Mark that this seems more like "give me the answer that agrees with my opinion" rather than a good-faith question.
    – G_B
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 22:38

16 Answers 16


Let me do a more philosophical approach. Let's highlight some claims I found in the answers here:

If you hire the best people, but they all share some common biases, you will end up with a biased product. Hiring people with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints means you'll get a wider variety of ideas...

The assumption here is that mere racial differences will lead people to be and think differently. It also implies that people of a similar race tend to be and think alike. The decisive factor of how individuals differ is therefore not just experience, education, skill or intelligence, but mostly differences in race.

The judgment is not based on the merit of each individual, but on the collective, racial setup itself - with diversity being the main factor.

I'm better because of the diversity in my team (I get to engage with people of different skill levels, from different perspectives, with different priorities, etc.)

Different skill levels are a natural occurrence everywhere. People have different experiences, skills, talents, strengths, weaknesses and personalities regardless of their race. The strongest correlation occurs with IQ and personality traits. There is variance between races indeed (by using average IQ of countries as comparison), but it boils down to individual selection, not random selection of a specimen of a race. Different priorities, different perspectives - these are just embellishing words to make an idea sound nicer - or rather "politically correct".

Where does this idea emanate from?

The idea that all humans are created equally and perfect. Each person is a Tabula Rasa, to be shaped by its environment and society. The assumption implies that there is nothing genetic that affects the human mind, only the body. The conclusion is that in the common case of non-perfection, the environment must be corrupt - and because every human is 100% malleable, so is society (because it consists of humans and "made up" rules - the term "social construct" comes to mind) - and therefore needs to be changed in order to get rid of its corruption.

These ideas lay out the foundation to go two ways: The idea of racial diversity or the idea of racial superiority. Why? If races are collectively competing with each other, and if we take economic success as a metric, we get racial hierarchies. Now we either see that hierarchy from top-down or bottom-up. That implies we can play the game of superiority-inferiority OR the game of oppressor-oppressed. The danger with the diversity approach is this: If the oppressor-oppressed narrative falls apart, it inevitably falls back to the superiority-inferiority narrative. And even if not, the same soil of thought which radically promotes racial diversity will also promote racial resentment.

Interestingly enough, the ideology of racial superiority-inferiority wouldn't even be the worse one. The neo-Marxist approach can lead to much worse outcomes.

Let's go the opposite way: What would happen if somebody gives an answer, which is the reverse what we see here? What if the answer is that racial diversity causes indeed more harm than good, but nobody dares to say it? What if that answer would be thoroughly funded in sources, facts and arguments? Doesn't matter, it would be downvoted into oblivion and flagged. That would be a clear sign that there is indeed a dominating, strong ideological bias at work - which triggers emotions first, and justification after. Suddenly every second word is dissected and nitpicked on - but claims like the 2 quotes above go uncontested.

@rs.29 made an answer regarding how it is dangerous to be in a racial diversity obsessed company for white males. Shouldn't that ring a bell that maybe we got an actually politically and publicly promoted and perpetuated racism problem, and not just an alleged, secret, systematic one? To me, the worst part is not that it occurs, but that even mentioning it draws so much resentment publicly.

A personal note: Maybe we shouldn't be too obsessed with race, and keep it at individualism and meritocracy. History has shown how a maximization of collectivism and state power (which the diversity agenda not only promotes, but necessitates) repeatedly lead to wars, mass-murder, tyranny, corruption and economic devastation - along with the total abandonment of the concept of the individual, and therefore individual liberties, ethics and the value of life itself.

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    I asked this question first on the Philo SE and they closed it because they said it was too much of a politically charged issue. Since I experience this in the workplace, I hoped someone would provide a more philosophical viewpoint, so thanks
    – Karen34
    Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 2:09
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    Apart from the merits of the argument, I fail to see how this answers the original question. Also the paragraph after the first quote is a massive non sequitur.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 22:24
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    This is not an answer, it's a jumbled mess of weakly argued criticisms of other posts and a strawman-like mischaracterisation of pro-diversity arguments, all with very obvious political overtones
    – zinfandel
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 1:15
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    @user - Let me respond appropriately: Terrible comment. For example your point is hollow, throwing around random words and thinking you made an argument. "Different lived experiences" - what does it even mean? Experiences are generally "lived." Is this an ideologically loaded terminology? "the nature of our society" - The what now? What does this even mean? Is it even definable? No. See - you are not shy to criticize me and declare my answer "terrible", but then provide nothing but anti-intellectual vandalism to found it upon.
    – Battle
    Commented Jun 15, 2020 at 13:23
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    @user - But that's merely the difference between regular experience and theory/fiction. One definition is: "practical contact with and observation of facts or events." It lays emphasis on personally taking part in something. Watching a forest fire in television is different from watching a forest fire directly next to you. Only the latter is considered an experience, and that is the same as "lived experience." It implies a close physical proximity and in opposite of "remoteness." What are experiences called that are not "lived", but are still included in the general word "experience"?
    – Battle
    Commented Jun 16, 2020 at 7:31

Here's a Harvard Business Review study on why diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams.

Diverse teams are more innovative and focus on facts better than homogeneous teams. However, it's not as simple as throwing a bunch of different people together and hoping that things work out, as this article points out.

Now if you're interested in something beyond abstract notions of "productivity" and why diversity matters, look at this. It's a soap dispenser that doesn't dispense soap to people who aren't white because the team didn't test it on other skin tones. Don't be that team.

I work on an amazing and very diverse team. I'm better because of the diversity in my team (I get to engage with people of different skill levels, from different perspectives, with different priorities, etc.) When building teams, looking entirely for a stack of uniformly excellent 10X engineers will be both costly and counterproductive. We focused on building a 10X team, as described in this article, and we did. I'm extremely happy on my team.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 3:29
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    Please add a summary of the referenced sources. Right now the only relevant sentence in the answer is "Diverse teams are more innovative and focus on facts better". The rest is just anecdotes and links.
    – Zulan
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 9:29
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    This kind of problem with products that don't work well with black people is far from uncommon. A very popular fitness brand from an asian giant has issues with reading black people's heart rates. My guess? They didn't test it on a black person. google.com/search?q=mi+band+2+heart+rate+not+working+black+skin
    – undefined
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 15:31
  • When a team is different they bring different things. When it doesn't occur to the team to add different in, you get a product that only works for some. Just like the soap dispenser but with a photo recognition software: Same issue different way: usatoday.com/story/tech/2015/07/01/… And again with AI downgraded women job based on what it was shown: reuters.com/article/us-amazon-com-jobs-automation-insight/…
    – DCook
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 18:59
  • I left the two comments with links in case the information is useful for possible updates to this post. They've been there a few days now, so next time my attention is drawn to this post I expect to delete them. Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 15:03

I work in a big IT company (100.000+ employee). Here is what I was told from an HR representative when I was promoted as a manager:

We need to hire smart and talented people. Smart and talented people can come from any background, including diverse gender, diverse sexualities, diverse skin color, diverse level of disability, etc...

If a division of the company turns out to be seen a toxic by a given demographic, we lose the ability to hire from this demographic.

For example, if you let lewd jokes, harassment, belittlement create a toxic environment for women, we lose 50% of our hiring prospect, which will result in having less choice from where to select talented people. As a result, you will have to work with dummies.

So, be open to diversity and work with smart people, or else you will have to work with dummies.

What I find funny is that I had to be promoted manager to hear this sensible argument. As long as I was a junior, all HR gave me as a justification was the usual BS ("diversity is cool, mmh 'kay? Don't be bad").

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    While sensible, this does not answer the question. Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 16:34
  • Hi there! I read a comment you made on a question (aboüt programming a physical process) You said you knew which choice to make? Which one? To be operated after you took a bullet? Sorry for commenting here. I cant there (philosophy). Commented Aug 6, 2021 at 7:48
  • No. Obviously I prefer to have a computer simulate how I could be healthy while I died deprived of care on the operating table.
    – armand
    Commented Aug 6, 2021 at 9:02

The general problem here is that the "merit" in meritocracy needs to be measured in some quantitative way. It's not an objective or absolute quantity. Organizations or teams that have a blind spot are often not aware that they have a blind spot and hence they won't be able to fill it.

Diversity helps you to broaden your definition of merit and create more balanced value system

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    You need to explain what you mean. Please tell me how diversity helps you "define" merit. Please explain why my value system will be more "balanced" and what a "balanced" value system even is and why its desirable.
    – a1s2d3f4
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 15:40
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    Re:"Merit needs to be measured in some quantitative way?" Why? Who says there has to be some quantitative measurement? In every company I have worked for, it is quite obvious who the really productive and capable people are and those who aren't. Yet, there's seldom a quantitative way to measure this.
    – Dunk
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 19:14
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    One problem could be, that this people who "make the merit", made it accidentally "like them". Maybe they set focus on their picture of a good worker? So the merit need to evolve, for example through new employees, which bring new focus. (What will be integrated in the merit? Presence hours? Output? Deadline fulfilling? Or also "Motivates its team", "Keeps its ears open for (also private) problems, so coworkers can left their sorrows and work efficient", "Takes care for enough caffeine in the office"?) ;) Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 7:12
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    I think the key distinction here is that while it's easy to argue that hiring based on merit is the best way to go, we don't actually ever get to do that. We hire based on an estimator of merit (such as the result of interviews). If we find that our estimator is not a good estimator of actual merit, we have to change. We can improve our merit estimator (better interview process, for example), but sometimes that is harder than it looks. Softer criteria such as "diversity" can be valuable in re-centering our merit estimators to be unbiased estimators (in the statistical sense)
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 22:50
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    Okay but do you have evidence to suggest that hiring a more diverse team eliminates or decreases the "blind spot"? Are you suggesting there's a "black way of thinking" or and "asian way of thinking" and a "white way of thinking"? I'm not convinced that there is. Why would having a more racially diverse team eliminate blindspots?
    – Aubreal
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 16:38

If you're talking about diversity in terms of casting a wide net, then yes. It can provide different perspectives and protect a company from falling into an echo chamber. But the diversity in perspective is what matters.

If you have a collection of racially, ethnically, and spiritually diverse people who all went to Harvard, you're going to have an echo chamber.

Even your question is a bit loaded.

You're question suggests a false dichotomy in that EITHER a group is based on diversity OR it's meritocracy.

The implication being that if you hire the best, you won't get a diverse group.

That's the same as saying that people from some backgrounds aren't good enough to get hired by ordinary means.

I've had an interesting life, and have been exposed to all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds. A friend of mine is currently rebuilding himself from being homeless, for example and I did the same myself.

Racial and cultural backgrounds alone do not ensure the kind of diversity of perspective that is said to be sought.

Back to my Harvard example. You will have a group that seems to be very diverse, but will essentially be an echo chamber as their backgrounds and experiences will have more in common than different.

But, if you have a group where one person had come up from the mean streets, paid his own way to school while working nights and taking care of his sick aunt may, until he clawed his way up to the top, and another person who came from a wealthy background, and was able to make many high-level connections along the way, you'd have a diverse team, even if both were black, white Asian, Christian, Muslim, et cetera.

Another thing you need to be careful of is in not turning your diversity outreach into a "diversity hire mill", where you are excluding people because of their backgrounds either, nor should you hire someone without merit, as that will cause numerous other problems.

Example, You hire A and B through your diversity program. "A" is an all-star, brilliant in her work, and better than half your team coming right in the door, definitely has a future with your company. "B", is mediocre at best, has a bad attitude, knows that she's hired through the diversity program, and is using that as job security.

Comments will come (either publicly or privately) that "That's what you get for hiring people like "b". A will certainly feel the pressure as well. Even if "A"'s performance remains remarkable, or even improves, "A" might get labeled as a "diversity hire", pushed aside, and passed over for promotion, or worse, promoted out of the way and left to stagnate.

IF you want to eliminate bias, you can pass people resume's with no personal information on the, so that they don't know the person's background, and then screen from there, but if you go in with the attitude that the two are mutually exclusive, then you are, from the word go, accepting sopme people are just not good enough due to their race/color/creed. That's where you will ruin your company.

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    I don't think the question suggests a false dichotomy... companies (including OPs) are the ones who either believe in the false dichotomy, or have recognized that THEIR definition of meritocracy has resulted in the dichotomy.
    – Mars
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 7:38
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    Perhaps I'm misinformed, but there have been quite a few cases where companies / departments would intentionally lower the entry bar to cater to diversity hiring practices, which clearly goes against meritocracy.
    – MBender
    Commented Feb 26, 2019 at 12:51
  • @Shaamaan you are not misinformed at all. Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 13:47

Only if you make sure that the composition of your workforce matches the one of society, you can truly install a meritocratic system. Structures tend to perpetuate themselves. A less diverse workforce will tend to remain like this, while on the other hand, a more diverse workforce will also stay more diverse.

When your company is as diverse as society on all hierarchy levels, then it will be visible to everyone that anyone can make it to any position in the company. Only then you can truly hire people only based on their skills, because everyone, the hirer and the hiree will be aware that other non-related factors will not matter. Until then you will have to compensate for structural disadvantages of some applicants in your hiring process. The goal can not be to hire for diversity forever, but only when and as much as structural disadvantages are reflected in the company's workforce.

You are assuming that when you are installing a system of true meritocracy will make any focus on diversity unnecessary, since skill does not depend on race or gender. Since skill actually does not depend on race and gender, this assumption sounds good in theory, but it does not hold up in the real world.

You can install a system of "true meritocracy" in your company and try to enforce it with all kind of measures, but the truth is that it is impossible to build such a bubble and completely isolate it from the real world.

In our society there are many ways how people can be disadvantaged by race, gender, wealth, social group etc. Here are some examples:

  • A woman who has kids is working on a part-time contract outperforms her coworkers on full-time contract, but her manager, whose wife stays at home with the kids, subconsciously (or consciously for that matter) feels that she can not fully focus on her job because "she also has to take care of her children" or he feels "sorry for the kids who need their mother". If she looks for a new job, she will do so from a position lower than warranted by her actual performance.
  • A black person is not graded fairly in his oral exam because he happened to come across an examiner who secretly holds racist views.
  • A smart kid from a poor family does not get good support at school, because her/his parents are busy to bring food on the table. It is expected from her/him to quickly find a paying job, because the family can not afford to maintan her/him in a higher eductation. At the same time a less gifted rich child will get all the support she/he needs by a paid tutor to attain good grades and will be supported financially by her/his parents during higher education.

All these people are at a disvantantage in a recruitment process that does not factor in the systemic effect of race, gender and other bias that is still present in our society. If, under these circumstances, you hire (solely) based on previous merit and not factor in those disadvantages, you will miss many good people who never had a chance to prove themselves. Compensating for lack of diversity will support other factors like fitness for your team and individual potential that are also important in the hiring process.

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    I don't believe you understand what meritocracy means by the examples given. You are also portraying the need of providing same outcomes instead of providing the same opportunities, which goes the opposite direction of what meritocracy is. Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 12:02
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    @fireshark519: My whole point is that you can not provide equal opportunities in isolation. The problem is that you can not hiere based on opportunity when the system doesn't provide that. You can take a look at an individual case and say "I have hired the best one for this position based only on merit.". But when your company has a non-diverse workforce, it is a sign that you are not providing equal opportunity. The outcome is a symptom of the problem.
    – Sefe
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 12:48
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    again you miss what meritocracy is. I was hired at my current job as a business analyst with no degree, no shipping experience and nearly no business analyst experience. I did not have the opportunity to go to university because of the country I grew up in. Between me and the other candidate that was shortlisted, they had Finance BA background and a degree in business administration. I got the job because I had achieved the things they wanted for the job through my own merit and effort on previous roles (working in project analysis and improvement). equal opportunity Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 13:00
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    You're conflating opportunity with outcome in this answer. You start of by assuming OP wants to install a "true meritocracy" in their company and then go on to list factors that are orthogonal to merit in your reasoning why it wont work. As an example, someone getting more tutoring will lead on average to them being a more meritorious hire (presumably all that practise led to greater skill assuming equal talent), so what you're arguing for is equality of outcome. The company does not have the resources to change opportunities at a societal level.
    – Magisch
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 13:18
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    It is not the duty of companies to solve socio-cultural problems. And as a recruiter, how would you, as a limited individual, correct or even measure structural disadvantages? Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 16:45

Just an idea: if you have a non-diverse clientele (all customers being of the same/similar background), then diversity might not bring a lot of advantages (at least where customer satisfaction is concerned).

However, if your customer base is more diverse (different backgrounds), then the presence of similar backgrounds in your company might foresee possible issues/questions the customer will have, which will make it easier and faster to respond to any customer demands.

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    You need to add an extra layer: only if you have a non-diverse clientele, who themselves also have non-diverse customers or end-users does this apply. If your non-diverse clients cater to diverse customers, you still need the extra insight.
    – Erik
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 15:51
  • If you have a non-diverse clientele, diverse hiring practices might bring in the perspectives required to expand your market to other groups of people, bringing in more money.
    – Stephen
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 7:13

As the other answers mention, there are potentially benefits from a more diverse team that, although they could theoretically be picked up as part of a measure of merit , in practice frequently aren't.

Aside from any actual benefits to the company though, from the perspective of people monitoring hiring practices diversity is much easier to measure than merit. This makes life much easier for HR and middle management types, who can report a 20% increase in new hire diversity as a win rather more easily than they can report a 20% increase in new hire merit. Since these people tend to be involved in advising on hiring policies, diversity related policies have a tendency to emerge.


This question very much depends on the particular vertical (business task) you are trying to accomplish.

As an example, in my team of assembly-line workers, I don't really care how diverse my workforce is; no amount of diversity is going to tell you how to put the square peg into the square hole any better, or explain to me that putting the square peg into the round hole is "a better idea". I want people who can put the square peg into the square hole, and do that many times over and over.

Conversely, if I am hiring for an HR department, I want to bring in all the best people from all walks of life and experience level. If I have an HR team that only knows how to hire from University X, then I'm going to get less applicants as opposed to knowing how to hire from University X, University Y, and College Z. Some proportion of that knowledge can come from diversity (e.g. if University X is overwhelmingly Asian, Y is overwhelmingly white, and Z is overwhelmingly Latin, then I'd want an HR person who's Asian, one who's white, and one who's Latin(o/a)). (At this point I should clarify that I'm Canadian and hence "University" and "College" are not synonyms for me, and there is a different skill set involved in hiring from a University vs. a College)

So basically, you want to think critically about what sort of business vertical you are referring to, and whether it's on the "hard skills" side of the spectrum, where there exists a "correct answer" (or a spectrum of answers which can be graded as objectively better/worse than others) and you want people who can arrive at that "correct answer", or the "soft skills" end of the spectrum where people with different life experiences may have important information to provide that is relevant to that cause.


I think Glen did a great job explaining the why of diversity, so let me take a different perspective.

Do diversity and inclusion actually have any benefits over using raw meritocratic measurements in interviews?

I'd argue that in a perfect world they lead to the exact same outcome. That skills are perfectly distributed and so are opportunities.

But the world is not perfect and so opportunities are not evenly distributed and neither are skills distributed in the same way as people's talents, simply because you need experience and practice to get the most out of raw talent.

So companies know that to attract the most talented, driven crowd you need to think of peoples' background.

Steve Jobs's dad was a Syrian immigrant, the Kennedys were Irish, Barack Obama mixed race, and Sergey Brin (Google) was born in Russia.

Companies should be terrified that they could be missing out on people like that, because they might have a background that is hard to recognize.

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    "missing out on people like that" - this is not what the question asked. The question didn't ask what the advantages are of not being biased against certain ethnic backgrounds. In a meritocracy, a minority applicant who is better than the non-minority one, gets the job. But if we discuss diversity versus meritocracy, then in that case, diversity means that the minority applicant who has the same (or lower) skill level still gets the job for the purpose of filling a quota and making the team more diverse. In this case your examples are completely off topic.
    – Val
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 10:23
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    Please read the title of the question again but slowly. By claiming that metrics are imperfect, companies will miss out on really great people you provided as examples... yet none of them, as far as I know, were hired for the sake of increasing diversity (maybe with the partial exception of Obama, who surely had voters who voted on him for his race... but still, he already achieved a high status before that)
    – Val
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 10:43
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    If you on average must hire 1 million Syrians to get Steve Jobs you are probably better off hiring an Ivy League WASP where, say, 9 out 10 perform above the median.
    – d-b
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 16:17
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    "I'd argue that in a perfect world they lead to the exact same outcome. That skills are perfectly distributed and so are opportunities." Nope. All evidence indicates that disparities are normal. youtu.be/Y021WAdUlW8 People are different, both within and between different classifications. See Sowell's books on the issue for more detail.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 16:27

People from diverse backgrounds can have perspectives that you otherwise lack - this much was said already. I think, however, that one needs to approach the problem with some common sense rather than jump on the "diversity at all costs PR" bandwagon. A diverse group of incompetent people will not be able to compete in any way with a non-diverse competent group of people.

Think of a purely-technical IT meeting; including people from the marketing department would certainly make the group of people present during that meeting more diverse and definitely give you some (possibly VERY) fresh perspectives. But you're likely just going to LOSE productivity as said marketing people aren't likely going to be able to contribute. Unless, of course, it's not a purely technical meeting and you want to discuss some actual marketing stuff or said marketing people double as, say, competent technical consultants...

In other words; lowering the entry bar to hire people with a more diverse background purely for the diversity "factor" is silly - you still want competence, after all. At the same time it's equally wrong to assume incompetence of anyone with said diverse background.

Diversity of a group may only become an asset when the group is already competent to begin with.

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    well said. Diversity, for diversity's sake is a bad idea. Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 13:49

why do unbiased people believe that some (non-PR) utility would be provided to their companies by hiring a more diverse staff instead of simply relying on meritocracy itself?

Human beings, including "unbiased people" are capable of believing nearly anything for any reason. But when people form any given belief, they don't typically change it unless it is shown to be demonstrably wrong in some way that is costly to ignore.

Belief in diversity's benefits is a relatively non-costly belief for HR personnel, and those benefits are difficult to measure objectively. If the benefits of diverse hiring practices don't actually exist, the effort in seeking additional diversity doesn't negatively impact the company much or at all.

Consider that top companies like Google still have 80% male development teams because that's who they can find, even after spending lots of time and money to try to hire more women. It's not like if a software company can only find 3 white dudes no matter how hard it tries, it won't eventually hire one of the white dudes instead of keep the position open forever.


There are some very good answers, here, but here is my personal view on this:

First, I am VERY MUCH in favor of a meritocratic approach to hiring and promotions, but the key to that is OBJECTIVE RATING of a person's "merits." I've seen this tried in educational systems, and when an incompetent administrator is put in charge of rating faculty, they tend to reward the incompetent ones because they fear the competent and they live in terror of the talented. There is also the fact that many have a subconscious bias to people "like them," because we still have that tribal brain thing going on behind all our "politically correct" modern-day values. Because of this, a meritocracy is a very difficult thing to achieve.

Second, diversity has nothing to do with merit, either positive or negative. Talented people come in all races and genders, and you should embrace that idea. Idiots do, too. But diversity adds something: It specifically adds "People who don't think like you do." Especially in knowledge and creative jobs, having different thought processes involved in development can mean making a better product, both because of approaches you wouldn't have thought of and cultural norms that you are trapped in.

An example from me: We are "conditioned" here in the Western world to think Red = bad and Green = good. Well, I got that notion kicked out of my head in an afternoon when I had a colorblind person who was born in China work one of my apps. First, they didn't see the difference between red and green, and second, in his culture, red is GOOD.

Now, that's a pretty simplistic anecdote, but it's a powerful one when you think about all the UI and language decisions you make in software, and all the color choices you make in art.


Diversity is likely to have inherent benefits to the organization, beyond just the PR value.

The problem with just going by a pure meritocracy is that the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts. If you hire the best people, but they all share some common biases, you will end up with a biased product. Hiring people with diverse backgrounds and viewpoints means you'll get a wider svariety of ideas, which can then be weighed against each other, with hopefully the best one being selected. And if you want your product to be acceptable and attractive to the widest customer base, it's helpful to have designers and developers that include people across a similar spectrum.

This can be viewed as the social analogy of the benefit of sexual reproduction over asexual reproduction -- mixing genes improves the species because you don't get stuck in a genetic rut.


On a slightly different tack from all the other answers: regardless of whether or not it adds value to a company by improving the quality of its workforce, it does add value to the company in a different way: it adds a protective screen against getting sued for discriminatory hiring practices. By providing lip service to the ideal of "diversity", they can cover their bases to protect themselves.


There's an advantage of a diverse workforce that hasn't been mentioned yet. Diversity is fun. Armands answer quotes an article stating that If a division of the company turns out to be seen a toxic by a given demographic, we lose the ability to hire from this demographic.

It goes further than that. I'm a white male and I have studied and worked in both diverse (40 students from 25 countries from all continents) and non-diverse environments (>80% male, all white, single country, 30–60 years old). I find the diverse environment simply much more fun to be in. If I can choose to do the same work in two different environments, one where everybody looks like me, or another with a team consisting of young and old men and women from all inhabited continents, I will choose the latter. A diverse environment simply makes for more interesting colleagues. A diverse workplace is more fun — not only for the minority, but also for the majority. Monoculture is simply boring.

Not everybody will share this view, but for those who do, diversity certainly provides something that meritocracy does not.

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