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July 15, 2005

B2: The Twelfth Resume

Had a conversation the other day in which the person with whom I was talking suggested that a possible reason there are more men than women in business is that more men are interested in business careers.

My response was that traditionally women couldn't get such jobs, which has made an environment not exactly conducive to hiring women. I was willing to imagine that more resumes come in from men than women -- "Those first ten or eleven resumes may be from men," I said -- but that it was worth waiting to see more resumes if you could hire a woman or minority.

"But it's more expensive to interview more people, and to wait longer... it's sometimes just easier to hire men," he says.

"But it's worth it," I say. "It's worth it to wait for the eleventh or twelfth resume if you can get a candidate with the same qualifications, the same skills, but a woman or member of another minority."

He asked why. Here's my answer:

(1) A business environment of just white men is not the sort of company that makes sense anymore. It's not a place where you'll find a diversity of opinion or ideas, and it's not a place people will want to be.

(2) It helps create a society in which we don't have gender- or race-based inequality, until such extra effort is unnecessary. Take the time now, and you create an environment where people expect to see women and minorities, where it's not harder to hire them, where we're all on a more even footing. Waiting for the twelfth resume creates a world where you won't have to wait or search or struggle to find such candidates. And that's the kind of world we should be working toward. Just like affirmative action programs should create a world in which they are no longer needed.

I don't even care why companies do it -- in this case, transforming expectations and building a better world is too good a thing to let slide. Even if companies just pay lip service to the idea of diversity today, it creates a situation that we can't ever leave. Because once a woman runs a Fortune 500 company (or a black woman serves as Secretary of State, for instance) no one can say (without sounding like an idiot) that it can't be done. It can, and we can make it happen.

Wait for the twelfth resume.

[Cross-posted at Toner Mishap.]