The following comes from a recent blog entry by CBS News anchorwoman, Katie Couric, about a meeting she and other news anchors attended at the White House.
And yet, the meeting was a little disconcerting as well. As I was looking at my colleagues around the room—Charlie Gibson, George Stephanopoulos, Brian Williams, Tim Russert, Bob Schieffer, Wolf Blitzer, and Brit Hume—I couldn’t help but notice, despite how far we’ve come, that I was still the only woman there. Well, there was some female support staff near the door. But of the people at the table, the “principals” in the meeting, I was the only one wearing a skirt. Everyone was gracious, though the jocular atmosphere was palpable.
Katie Couric was the only woman seated at the table. *gasp* The horror! How was she ever able to carry on in the meeting? Having identified both the Bush administration and the news shows as being sexist pigs, Ms. Couric continues with an old bromide: sexual equality only comes when employee ratios match population ratios.
The feminist movement that began in the 1970′s helped women make tremendous strides—but there still haven’t been enough great leaps for womankind. Fifty-one percent of America is female, but women make up only about sixteen percent of Congress—which, as the Washington Monthly recently pointed out, is better than it’s ever been…but still not as good as parliaments in Rwanda (forty-nine percent women) or Sweden (forty-seven percent women). Only nine Fortune 500 companies have women as CEO’s.
That meeting was a reality check for me—and not just about Iraq. It was a reminder that all of us still have an obligation to ask: Don’t more women deserve a place at the table too?
By Ms. Couric’s logic, any business that doesn’t employ 50% women is guilty of not being diverse enough. Obviously, that business is being run by sexist pigs. But there is an inherent problem with looking at pure numbers and drawing a conclusion of discrimination. If we were to do so, we would have to condemn the Supreme Court for failing to hire enough minorities. Thomas Sowell wrote about the fallacy of judging based on averages in his book, Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality?.
Even in a random world of identical things, to say that something happens a certain way on the average is not to say that it happens that way every time. But affirmative action deals with averages almost as if there were no variance. If Hispanics are 8 percent of the carpenters in a given town, it does not follow that every employer of carpenters in that town would have 8 percent Hispanics if there were no discrimination. Even if carpenters were assigned to employers by drawing lots (or by some other random process), there would be variance in the proportion of Hispanic carpenters from one employer to another. To convict those employers with fewer Hispanics of discrimination in hiring would be to make statistical variance a federal offense.
To illustrate the point, we can consider some process where racial, sexual, or ideological factors do not enter, such as the flipping of a coin. There is no reason to expect a persistent preponderance of heads over tails (or vice versa) on the average, but there is also no reason to expect exactly half heads and half tails every time we flip a coin a few times. That is, variance will exist. [emphasis by the author]
And based on the blog entry by Ms. Couric, it appears she has a hard time understanding the difference between averages and variance.