perative to find the best talent for the job.
In the case you present, pass/fail is probably
a good solution to equalize societal differences
in preparation and to allow the talent to come
through regardless of race. This is a crude way of
handling it, but statistically it will probably work
without lowering the quality of your firefighters,
as standardized tests are usually not a predictor of
The second part of your e-mail involves hiring rates. In my opinion, redress of past injustice
benefits the total society. In the case of your fire
department, diversity will increase your talent pool
by providing access to those who had been discriminated against. There are generational benefits.
For example, the New York City Fire Department
is 79 percent white and 8 percent women. The
city population is 44 percent white and 52 percent women. Mathematically, the fire department
cannot have the most qualified people working for
them. Traditionally, however, the jobs have gone to
certain neighborhoods and then have been passed
from father to son. This is fine, but you increase the
chance of higher-quality firefighters by spreading
the wealth (given that all people/talent are equal).
Because of human nature, diversity does not
happen serendipitously. People are NOT colorblind.
Another factor affecting quality and performance is
that there is poor retention when representation of
any group is low.
The data in The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies
for Diversity® shows a definite connection between
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representation (especially management representation), recruitment and retention. Although this will
be of little solace to the white applicant who is waiting, your fire department is working toward diversity
that will have several benefits:
1. A more effective fire department because of
better talent at all levels.
2. Retention of that diverse talent by having rank-and-file as well as management representation.
3. Economic development of communities that
were formerly discriminated against.
There are other benefits for your region:
1. A reputation for diversity is an economic-development necessity for locating progressive
companies to your area.
2. It also helps to prevent a brain drain of talented
3. Enhanced trust will encourage residents to
practice better fire prevention and facilitate more
effective fire fighting.
Finally, righteous discrimination is something we
all practice. In this case, your community is discriminating against bias and toward inclusiveness. There
are long-term benefits to this approach. The pain
comes in recovering from decades or centuries of