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The Inverse Relationship Between Inclusion and Competence

Articles Jun 9, 2023

In the current neurotic obsession with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in America, much as been said about equity and its Marxist and Maoist characteristics. Diversity has obviously been on the topic board since the late 1980s. But “inclusion” is an odd word in a few senses, and one that has received little attention.

The DEI crowd seems to believe that all domains of life should draw randomly and proportionately from the population and that anything other than precise representation of all races, both sexes, and all cultural backgrounds is clear evidence of unjust exclusion at the hands of a power-source.

The problem with this assumption is that as the complexity and difficulty of a task increases, the utility of inclusion reduces and the value of exclusion rises rapidly. For instance, when it comes to neurosurgery residency admissions or NASA engineering roles, it makes sense that the admissions to these tasks themselves is associated with very low levels of inclusion. If this were not so we would obviously be compromising competence in very sensitive domains and increasing the risk of catastrophe. This self evident truth lies at the basis of my objection to initiatives in the DEI front.

Let’s get into something controversial as an example. Certain airlines have set quotas to have 50% female pilots in their incoming cadre of trainees. I am often befuddled as to why everyone fails to grasp the manifold idiocy here and it is hard to put any of this in order as the truth of these matters is so blatantly evident to any of us who are paying attention. First, there is no nationwide call for female pilots. Women and girls are not upset that there is not 50% representation of females in the airline industry. Who knows where this DEI spark first lit, but it did light. Second, if there were somehow a national call on the part of feminists to install DEI in the airlines, they should first call for it in plumbing, but we don’t ever seem to hear about that. Nobody ever seems to object to the lack of diversity in sewage pumping jobs, arborists, lumberjacks, blacksmiths, manual laborers in construction, etc. Weird, huh? As far as those domains go, there is apparently no DEI crisis to correct. But when it comes to positions of high authority and prestige…yep…time for the “diversity experts” to converge.

Third, and most important….if you set a quota for anything but measurable competence, there is then the possibility that someone is chosen for a very important job on the basis of something other than competence. This fact is absurdly self evident and yet it eludes the DEI crowd somehow. If a CEO or chairman demands that hiring managers produce 50% female pilots, what happens when there are, for the sake of argument, 49 out of 100 females in an incoming class and the remaining two applicants competing for the last space are 1). a female with average competence, 2). A man with, let's say, superior competence as measured by accurate aptitude and achievement metrics? The DEI mandate is to fill the quota with the woman. My argument is that this decision is deeply unethical and immoral, and I think anyone sitting in an airplane seat would agree with me.

The way that the aforementioned example ties into inclusion is as follows. Different groups across the world have differing interests, developmental paths, and proclivities. Economist Thomas Sowell has studied this in depth. Moreover, a large one of a kind study in Scandinavia provided evidence that when left to their own devices men and women gravitate even more toward tasks that represent traditional masculine and feminine interests, respectively. I have yet to hear any convincing argument as to how there could possibly be an equal number of women and men who are interested in aeronautical engineering, except that there would be if it weren’t for men excluding women from STEM. Yes, this has happened in the past, and it is no longer even a remote reality. For instance, my field of clinical psychology is 90% women; again I hear nobody calling for a balancing act as a result.

Since the evidence that we do have at our disposal indicates that women tend to have less innate interest in mechanical life, why wouldn’t we assume that generally, men would on the whole provide a greater number of airline pilots? They are the group that practice mechanical activity in life the most. This fact is evident from early childhood development right on up through adulthood.

The overall point that people should take away from this article is that a major tenant of DEI, that inclusivity is a virtuous marker of how things should be going, is simply out of touch with reality especially as the complexity if tasks increases. The valuable criteria there is exclusion on the basis of competence and measurable incompetence, and for some roles we cannot say to ourselves or others “we don’t know if this person is as competent as the other guy, but we have faith that he’ll grow into the role.” Try telling the patient about to go under for brain surgery that her surgeon did not even take the MCAT and was admitted to medical school under DEI mandates as is now the case in some Ivy League medical schools. I think most people, when operating rationally, would agree that we should admit and build our society on the basis of merit. And merit does not discriminate as a phenomenon…it appears where it appears and spares no group its presence and honor.

Returning to the basic point, the next time you run into someone who appears to be under the spell of DEI virtuousness, you might remember this essay and I hope that it helps you to recall that inclusiveness and competence have an inverse correlation in the real world of complex tasks.

The Real Clear Podcast with Dr Lucas Klein is the in-depth analysis and commentary on current political events through a psychological lens. The Real Clear podcast covers a wide range of topics, from the latest election results to policy debates, to exploring the impact of current events on the political landscape.