Three Reasons Why “Because It’s 2015” Is So Brilliant

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has put together the most diverse cabinet in his country’s history. Not only does the cabinet have gender parity, but it features two aboriginal politicians, two persons with disabilities, and three Sikhs. It’s also the youngest cabinet than any past administration.

When asked why having a gender-balanced cabinet was important to him, Trudeau said, “Because it’s 2015.” My friend Michael called it “the mic drop moment of the political season.”

Predictably, there are people who are crying about quotas, and criticizing Trudeau for passing over qualified [white male?] candidates out of political correctness run amok. To that I say psssshhhh. For three reasons:

  1. The wisdom of crowds depends on a diverse crowd. If you’ve read James Surowiecki’s book with that title, you know that large groups of people are surprisingly good at arriving at the right answer on things. (That’s the poll-the-audience option on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.) BUT, that crowd needs to be as diverse as possible, in order to correct for biases and blind spots. All other things being equal, Trudeau’s cabinet will be wiser than one in which everyone comes from the same background, even if that background happens to be exemplary.
  2. It matters that people see leaders who look like them. My little niece saw a picture of Hillary Clinton recently and asked who it was. My brother said, “That’s Hillary Clinton, she’s running for President.” My niece stared rapt at the picture and said, “I want a woman president.” Ultimately Clinton will have to earn our votes, or not. But seeing people who look like you, especially when you’re young and dreaming of what’s possible for yourself, is huge. (And let’s face it, there are still plenty of old white men in Trudeau’s cabinet.)
  3. It acknowledges that in a complex world, there is rarely a single “right” or “best” option. When people argue against, say, affirmative action, they often complain that the [white, male, whatever] candidate gets passed over for an unqualified or less-qualified [minority, woman, whatever] candidate. This strikes me as a very old fashioned notion. In a world as complicated as ours, once you weed out people who are clearly not qualified, you may be left with multiple qualified candidates, albeit with different skills and backgrounds. This happens in college admissions–if a school admits 500 students, there’s probably going to be very little difference between candidate 500 and 501. That’s an uncomfortable truth if you’re #501, but it’s simply the reality. The idea that there is one and only one clear answer seems very romantic, like believing there’s one soul mate out there for everyone. Eh. Not really. Instead there are flawed people who measure up to one another like apples and oranges, so you have to be rational and discerning, but ultimately trust your judgment. Or put another way:

Why indeed?

4 thoughts on “Three Reasons Why “Because It’s 2015” Is So Brilliant

  1. Bob Braxton

    College admissions is a very good case in point. I want to see her as President, too. In fact, I was prepared to vote for H – eight years (almost) ago. At least we did not get John
    Edwards.

    Reply
  2. Charlie Chadwick

    “When people argue against, say, affirmative action, they often complain that the [white, male, whatever] candidate gets passed over for an unqualified or less-qualified [minority, woman, whatever] candidate. This strikes me as a very old fashioned notion.”

    As someone who qualifies as an old dude, there is an irony in that statement. When I was a young manager and first started hiring people, I operated on the basis that you hired the most qualified person regardless of gender, color, etc. It was necessary 35 years ago because, if there wasn’t much difference (and sometimes even if there was) between two qualified candidates, the default hiring was often the person who looked like everyone else — male and white. You had to argue for most qualified to create diversity. Using the same argument (most qualified) today often has the opposite effect — to limit diversity. Of course, “most qualified” is in the eye of the beholder since people have different strengths and weaknesses. Comparing them as if there is some absolute scale of qualification just doesn’t work (now or then). The point is that things change. Culture changes, perceptions change, the best interests of society change. The argument that served the needs of society (and justice) 35 years ago may not have the same effect today. So change and get over it. Oh, and given the size of the population from which JT (and almost every politician and employer) has to choose today, I agree that there is no reason to assume he didn’t pick a well qualified cabinet.

    Someday, I’m going to learn how to say things with fewer words!

    Charlie

    Reply
    1. MaryAnn McKibben Dana Post author

      Charlie, your comment reminded me of a T-shirt my dad bought me when I was a teenager, with this quote on it (admittedly a long one for a T-shirt!)

      ‘Whatever women do, they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.’

      Interestingly, that’s from Charlotte Whitton, the first woman mayor of a major city–in Canada.

      Reply
    2. Bob Braxton

      You done good. You may know of Rev. Beth’s total joint replacement (hip) surgery – healing well, less than two weeks into. My role “coach”

      Reply

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