Why the Accenture Gender-Parity Target Is Insane -- and Bad for Women

Hiring minorities just for the sake of diversity doesn't help anyone.
Why the Accenture Gender-Parity Target Is Insane -- and Bad for Women
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Accenture, one of the world’s best-known consulting firms for major enterprises, announced that they have set a target to have 50 percent of its workforce be comprised of women within the next eight years.

Let me repeat this: They have set a workforce target not based on experience, qualifications, potential or any work-related factors. They have set a target for their workforce based on what body parts you have (or which you identify with having, depending on definitions).

This precedent is not only insane, but as a woman, I find it offensive and, ultimately, bad for women and business.

Businesses should be interviewing and hiring the best possible candidates they can find for their business -- period. Doing anything else is a disservice to the company’s culture, shareholders and clients.

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Diversity is important because it ensures that a variety of perspectives, experiences, networks and thought processes are included in the company’s toolkit. This ostensibly gives companies a richer pool of information to draw from and more thoughtful outcomes for their customers.

Diversity for the sake of diversity, though, doesn’t help anything. If people who are supposedly representing some supposed group -- women, LGBTQ, etc. -- aren’t the best people for the job, they start being perceived as a token. That hurts future opportunities for people who are viewed as part of that group, rather than an individual, and causes schisms in company culture.

Additionally, diversity is not just who you are based on genetics, but the different experiences you have assembled over time based on where you grew up, income and a whole host of other factors.

As I have written about extensively, including in this space, genetics is not something you can control the way you can control your attitude, work ethic and more. That’s why it shouldn’t be a factor in getting (or not getting) a job.  

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Moreover, women face a lot of factors that shape how they approach work. For some, their interests lie in certain industries, which mean that some industries will have more women and some will have less.  Other women have a strong preference to leave the workforce to run a household and care for children. If this decision fits the goals and objectives of those women, then there will be less of them in the workforce.

Is there a problem with women being underrepresented in certain industries and at the higher levels of companies? Absolutely.

Does arbitrary representation targeting help? Absolutely not.

If companies want to help women (or anyone else whose perspective and experience they feel is underrepresented) succeed, make sure that qualified, experienced women and those with the capacity to learn are considered as part of the interview process. Once these women are hired, mentor them, network with them and recommend them for appropriate positions that may come up.

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Companies can also broaden the types of experience required for people in certain positions.  For example, a lot of women don’t make boards of directors because they are looking for C-level executives. Broadening those qualifications to others that can also make strong directors can yield more candidate diversity.

But, for god’s sake, don’t start throwing out targets based on what someone is versus who someone is. It’s not good for your business and while the intentions may be noble, it’s not good for those who receive a job that someone else is better qualified for, either.

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