The non-bias problem.
In "Mittelmaß und Wahnsinn" (Mediocrity and Madness), I passionately argue that diversity is much more than gender diversity and that building true excellence does not stem from a blend of people that is on average above average but from a team of divers talents, each of them standing out in their special capacity (with many talents being unseen and unrewarded by our regular ways of assessing humans at their workplace. Well, I actually like that piece of the book but it is actually not at the center of today's humble post.
The gender-non-bias paradox
Today's post actually goes back to a conversation I had with a dear friend of mine around International Woman's Day. She was actually rather enthusiastic about that day and all the attention the topic got through it. I said, I struggled a bit with the basic notion of that day. "Don't you feel belittled in a way by the very fact we have such a day?", I asked, "Like some endangered species ...". "Well", she answered, "in a way you're right but people like you are part of the problem ...".
"Me!", shot through my mind. I regard myself as rather (there is always an unconscious side to biases) gender-non-biased. I don't care about anything as long as the people I interact with are honest (yes, that's actually my only conscious bias), interesting and passionate (that's an easy one; -- everybody has a surprise for you) and have at least some sense of humour (ah, another bias). Luckily she confirmed at least that perception of mine. "People as unbiased as you", she argued, "don't help the cause because the neither see the problem nor do the act upon it."
Breaking the asymmetry
I can't get that conversation out of my mind. With hindsight, I only can plea guilty. I once led one of the most diverse entities (in many dimension) but under my helm the number of women in senior leadership roles rather shrunk than grew. I might be less unbiased than I think of myself. Thus, I'd like to take the argument to a more abstract stage: In order to break an asymmetry you have to act asymmetrically. Acting non-biased in a biased environment only affirms that bias. Think about that it from the perspective of an XY chromosomed being. Being non-biased is comparatively easy against acting actively towards breaking that symmetry.
It bears some risk that you would do something for the wrong reasons. But it also bears the potential that you discover a treasure trove you would have never discovered otherwise. And it is probably just the right thing to do! (a reason we use to neglect by trying to justify everything by a business case)
Maybe, that woman's day is not such a bad idea after all. Maybe -- from a law of nature "break the asymmetry" point of view -- even quotas would be the right choice ... .