15 April 2010

"Supply-side op-ed-nomics"

I enjoyed Conor Friedersdorf's recent post about the demographics of high-profile op-ed pages, and whether we should be concerned about their male-ness and white-ness. (Answer: not especially.)

I think this is the core of the matter:
As it happens, I don’t think any of these exceptional [female] journalists would cover the conservative movement day-to-day better than Dave Weigel, or blog about health care policy better than Ezra Klein — it isn’t merely that I can’t think of a woman who could replace either, but that I don’t think there is anyone in American journalism better suited to those particular gigs.
The whole situation is very much similar to T.J. Rodger's epistle to the nun who wanted his technology company to have more female executives.  (If you haven't read that then please go do so now.  It is far more valuable than anything you'll find here.)

On a macro level it's easy to say that society ought to evenly allocate things like NY Times op-ed slots between genders. But that's not the decision actual individuals face when forced to make hiring decisions at the top levels. When the task becomes "who is the single best person we can get to fill this position?" then you need to put that prior macro distributional concern aside. To do otherwise is an abdication of the responsibility you have to your organization, not to mention a bit of an insult to humanism.

PS This point of Friedersdorf's is important to the discussion of op-ed pages specifically:
Surveying the blogosphere, I can’t help but notice that the vast majority of political opinion writers are men, even in a venue with very low barriers to entry, so I can’t say I’m surprised that the pattern holds at op-ed pages.
There are doubtless other fields where a similar kind of pattern holds. Technology companies like those Rodgers was discussion are probably one.

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