Meeting of February 28, 2007, Washington D.C. to Launch E-Race Initiative
My written statement today is divided into two parts. First, I am resubmitting the statement and appendices--with only minor edits--I sent to the Commission last April when I was scheduled to testify then. There was nothing in there that I wish to retract. Second, I am submitting this brief supplement to that earlier statement, to reflect developments that have occurred over the past eight months or so.
I also received a number of supportive emails or letters from employees at various companies, the government, universities, and law firms.
One of the issues I raised in my original testimony was affirmative discrimination in law firms, especially at the behest of corporate clients. This topic has been much in the news. I would cite, in particular, a New York Times story about the important work done by UCLA law professor Richard Sander, who has concluded that such discrimination actually hurts the supposed beneficiaries. See Richard H. Sander, “The Racial Paradox of the Corporate Law Firm, 84 N.C. L. Rev. 1755 (2006). Another article early this year reports that business members of the Santa Clara County Bar Association’s “commission on diversity, such as Intel, Google, and Yahoo, have openly requested their outside counsel better reflect the diversity of the global and local markets ….” There have also been news stories about the pressure that McKesson Corp. and Wal-Mart have put on their law firms to get their numbers right, including in particular how McKesson cut Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher from its list of firms that would be considered for doing the company’s legal work. I mentioned earlier the news story highlighting the diversity efforts of the firm Fenwick & West, the chairman of which acknowledged: “It’s also just plain good for business. Our clients care about diversity.” That article also reported that “Other large Bay Area firms, for their part, are putting work into meeting diversity goals.”
There was an article in the Washington Post on January 15, 2007 about a paper by Cedric Herring of the University of Illinois at Chicago, with parts of the article suggesting that greater diversity leads to greater business success. But, in fact, the study really seems to find only that larger companies tend to be more diverse, which is unsurprising.
Likewise, the title of Scott Page’s new book The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies might lead one to believe that it proves racial and ethnic diversity is good for business, but in fact its claims are more limited than that. Indeed, much of what Professor Page has to say is similar to part III of my April testimony--specifically, that for many jobs diversity of any sort is irrelevant; that in any event it is what he calls “cognitive” diversity that ultimately matters, not skin-color diversity per se; and that employers should “avoid lumping by [racial] identity” and should “avoid stereotypes” (and, of course, Professor Page does not address the legal prohibition on racial discrimination, even when it is said to be justified by believed “cognitive” differences).
Finally, indications are that the new appointees to the Supreme Court are likely to make it even less receptive to companies’ discrimination. As Chief Justice Roberts observed in his first major civil-rights opinion: “It is a sorry business, this divvying us up by race.”
In sum, there’s a very simple and straightforward way to separate good and legal diversity efforts from bad and illegal ones: Just ask, Are people being treated differently because of race, ethnicity, or sex?
This page was last modified on April 10, 2007.
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