The truth about ‘boardroom diversity’

We all know that increasing the diversity of your boardroom increases the success of your company because politicians, business leaders and academics keep telling us so. No one has ever got into trouble for making this assertion and, in any case, we have the scientific evidence to prove it – in the form of four studies pumped out by management consultants McKinsey & Company over the past decade. The first of these, Why Diversity Matters (2015), claimed, for example, that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15 per cent more likely to outperform the median company in their industry, and companies in the top quartile for racial/ethnic

Why should Vikings be diverse?

I don’t always watch ‘Strongest Viking’ competitions on cable. But the other day I was channel-hopping and became mesmerised by one. Firstly because I wasn’t previously aware that such banality was possible on television. People really watch men trying to push a stone or pull a rope? This was new data to me. But I also stayed because I was struck by the sheer lack of diversity. The cultural homogeneity of the Strongest Viking competition was appalling When the league tables flashed up, it transpired that the board was led by someone called Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, otherwise known as ‘the Mountain’ in Game of Thrones. Mr Björnsson is from Iceland,

We don’t need a ‘diverse’ coronation

Refugees and the NHS, we are told, will be at the heart of King Charles’s ‘diverse’ coronation in May. You’d think that a thousand-year-old institution tasked with steering clear of controversy might seek to avoid such hot potatoes. But there is nothing unexpected about this royal foray into politics. LGBTQ+ groups will perform at ‘a star-studded concert at Windsor Castle’ as part of the celebrations marking His Majesty’s accession to the throne. A royal source told the Daily Telegraph the coronation ‘needed to be “majestic” but “inclusive” to reflect a diverse modern Britain’.  Unfortunately, this sounds like another example of the utterly banal EDI (equality, diversity, inclusion) events we’ve become

The City still runs on nepotism

When Liz Truss says she wants to give tax cuts to the wealthiest, she thinks she is making a moral argument. The rich deserve to keep their money because they are the best and brightest among us. They have succeeded on their own merit and not because of their class, sex or ethnicity. This, she believes, is a Thatcherite view of society. But the crisis that her government has imposed on Britain is as much due to her misreading of modern history as of her economic illiteracy. Her support for the City rests on a misunderstanding of how Thatcherism transformed the top of British society, as a new and devastating

A defence of Jess Brammar

I noticed with interest that Gigalum island — off the Kintyre peninsula in Argyll — was up for sale for half a million quid or so. Nineteen rather barren acres, slightly warmed by the Gulf Stream. These little parcels of desolation quite often become available for purchase and I do wonder if Gigalum should be purchased by the state for the dumping of toxic waste. Gruinard island, further north, was used by the government during the second world war as a site for testing militarised anthrax, for example. My proposal for Gigalum is that it should be a repository for everyone in the country with the word ‘diversity’ anywhere in

Can cartoons be both funny – and diverse?

Of the many challenges cartoonists face — rejection, money, drink, or lack of — one of the trickiest is the growing pressure to depict diversity. Nowadays readers often write to publications complaining about the dearth of ethnic minorities in our drawings and demand for cartoons to be more inclusive. It’s like being trapped in a bad political cartoon, walking a tightrope above a minefield. A quick survey of my colleagues in the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation highlighted the following: Cartoons involve laughing at someone. If that person is black, you risk appearing racist; even including a BAME character in the background of drawing can lead to accusations of tokenism (‘background box-tickers’).

Why are the Oscars such a lousy guide to great cinema?

Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, predicted to win big at this year’s Oscars, is not a terrible film. It’s a slight, sentimental Grapes of Wrath-ish journey through the Discourse, with essential Discourse stop-offs at an Amazon warehouse and the rust belt. It belongs in the New Yorker, not on screen. As with almost every film to win big since No Country for Old Men 13 years ago, you just think: the ‘highest honours in filmmaking’? For that? Amid all the change that’s being trumpeted at this year’s Oscars — more women directors, more ethnic minorities — the one thing missing is any discussion about why the awards are such a lousy guide

Will the Netherlands’ gender quota experiment work?

Quotas are unpopular, especially in the liberal Netherlands. But next week its parliament is expected to impose a quota system to ensure major businesses employ more women at the highest levels. A law is being tabled in parliament which would force listed companies to have at least a third of women (or, indeed, a third of men) on their supervisory boards. Another 5,000 Dutch companies will need to come up with ‘appropriate and ambitious’ measures for increasing female leadership. Meanwhile a government website now showcases board-ready Topvrouwen (top women) to take up these posts. And, in a real departure from the norm, there will be sanctions: if a listed company

The ancients were defined by actions, not attributes

Diversity is ‘about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education and national origin’. If this means making their differences the most important thing about them, it fails to answer the question about what such empowering will enable them to do. A famous story about Heracles illustrates ancient priorities. He was on the cusp of manhood and wondering what path in life to take. Vice and Virtue approached him and made their different pitches. Vice (‘but friends call me “Happiness”’) offered a life of endless pleasure, Virtue something very different. ‘Men will get no fine or noble

The TV we feared they’d never dare make any more: The Singapore Grip reviewed

‘Art is dead,’ declared Mark Steyn recently. He was referring to the new rules — copied from the Baftas — whereby to qualify for the Oscars your movie must have the correct quota of gay/ethnic minority/transgender/etc people. This, he argued, will lead to the kind of leaden, politicised, phoney art we associate with communist regimes in the Soviet era and which, not so long ago, we used to find eminently mockable. If British and American producers want to lose money on TV shows and movies that no one wants to watch, then good luck to them. All that matters is that there’ll be enough brave dissenters out there to say:

Is Evensong too problematic to survive?

If only God had clearly decreed exactly what sort of music he wanted us to make in church. For uncertainty on this matter is highly problematic. If only he had said, for example, unaccompanied female voices on weekdays and an all-male choir on Sundays, with nothing composed before 1800 and no stringed instruments, except at Christmas. Or something else, similarly specific. The Calvinists of the sixteenth century decided that he had said something of this sort: no music at all, except for chanted Psalms. You can imagine the Dean of Sheffield Cathedral feeling a flicker of sympathy for this position. For Sheffield Cathedral has announced that its choir is not

Why ‘safe spaces’ are nowhere to be seen on Japan’s university campuses

A part-time lecturer and friend of mine was reported to his university last month for making ‘inappropriate comments’ in the teacher’s room. These comments, related to his sceptical views on man-made climate change. The accuser, another part-time lecturer irate at such heresy, clearly wanted my friend to be sacked. Had this been a British or American university, I would have gravely worried about my friend’s position. Luckily for him, it happened in Tokyo. So his job is safe. Why? I know exactly how this complaint will have been received: politely, of course, and with the Japanese equivalent of ‘Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention’. And I know

Caroline Lucas and the problem with diversity

As Caroline Lucas found out last week, there comes a moment when a defective ideology collapses under the weight of its absurdities. For the doctrine of diversity, the meltdown happened when the former Green party leader was forced to apologise for including no black people in her all-women fantasy Cabinet. Labour supporters were particularly angry at Lucas’s omission of Diane Abbott. Why hadn’t the shadow Home Secretary been included? Yet in leaving Abbott out, Lucas actually did Labour a favour. She showed, all too clearly, that even as a thought-experiment when you have controlled for sex, views on Europe, and position on the left/right spectrum, Diane Abbott still does not make the

The diversity agenda is killing cinema

The film world is atoning for its crimes against diversity. On screen, strong women are supplanting Disney princesses. Superheroes, once uniformly white and male, are turning multicultural. Gay intrigue is edging out heterosexual romance. Away from the camera, bankable stars force studios to employ minority personnel by adding ‘inclusion riders’ to their contracts. Film-makers must repent ancient mis-speaks, beg forgiveness and denounce peers accused of transgressions. Abuse allegations against Woody Allen may be unproven, but actors who have taken his shilling disown him and donate their tarnished earnings to #TimesUp. Unsurprisingly, the current awards season reflects these rectifications. Of the eight nominations for best picture Oscar, six boast diversity credentials.

Back to the USSR

Is it me, or is business becoming a teeny-weeny bit Stalinist? Common features include 1) Paranoia about political ideology; 2) Snitching; 3) Fatuous targets and metrics; 4) Unquestioning faith in technology; 5) Huge, economically unproductive bureaucracies; 6) Overinvestment in education; 7) Preference for theory over experience; 8) An obsession with rockets. An acquaintance in the US has been denounced for racial insensitivity for asking whether a colleague was Jewish. (Funnily enough, I was asked this all the time when I visited New York in the 1990s. I had to explain that my curly hair originates in a country that’s the same size as Israel, and with slightly annoying neighbours, but

The Spectator Podcast: the Diversity Trap

In recent days, Lionel Shriver has been in trouble. Her criticism of the publishing industry’s diversity drive has led to her marked as a racist and even dropped from a literary judging panel. She argued that ethnic quotas harm rather than help diversity – is she wrong? As Robert Mueller’s investigation continues, several dodgy links to Britain have surfaced that could bring down Trump. And last, in the age of MeToo, is sex becoming sexier? Find out at this week’s Spectator Podcast. Do quotas help or hinder racial equality? That’s the big question we’ve been asking at the Spectator recently. Since we published Lionel Shriver’s critique of Penguin Random House’s

The Google ‘anti-diversity’ memo isn’t anything of the sort

Earlier this week, a technology website published an internal memo written by an employee of Google called James Damore criticising the company’s efforts to diversify its workforce. This is where-angels-fear-to-tread territory. The America technology sector has come under heavy fire for a number of years for failing to hire and promote enough women and Google is currently being investigated by the US Department of Labour for allegedly under-paying its female employees. But what makes this memo particularly controversial is that Damore takes Google to task for discriminating in favour of women. He begins by saying he is pro-diversity and accepts that one of the reasons women don’t constitute 50 per cent of

The trouble with diversity training

Is diversity training snake oil? According to its proponents, women and minorities are not competing with white men on a level playing field when it comes to career advancement because of the ‘unconscious bias’ of their white male colleagues. The solution, if you’re the CEO of a large company, is to pay a ‘diversity consultant’ to train your managers to recognise and eliminate this bias. In America, it’s an $8-billion-a-year industry, yet a recent study in Australia suggests that, whatever is holding back women and minorities, it isn’t unconscious bias. The Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian government has just published the results of a randomised control trial involving 21,000

The BBC must address its lack of diversity – or risk losing viewers

Growing up in my Mum’s house, Wogan was king. Throughout the 1980s leading lights like Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and Sammy Davis Jr sat on his sofa and – vicariously – in our living room in Tottenham too. As well as its historic duty to ‘inform, educate and entertain’, the principle of universality has always been at the very heart of what the BBC stands for. Our most cherished cultural institution is at its root a universal service that must reflect all of Britain by virtue of the simple fact that it is funded by all Britons. In a multi-platform, digital age where more content is available than ever before

Why is British dance training so poor? ‘Diversity’ is trumping quality

A very British thing happened at the dance industry conference last weekend. Three of the UK’s most celebrated contemporary choreographers said British contemporary dance training is not up to snuff. Foreign dancers were better trained from a younger age, they said, were fitter, readier, worked harder. That’s why they got more jobs in British companies than UK-trained graduates. The two instant results were (a) a chorus of outraged denial from the dance establishment and (b) the resignation of the chairman of Dance UK, the umbrella body and ‘voice of dance’, which staged the conference. Now, its chairman, Farooq Chaudhry, was certainly playing some fairly brutal politics. He is the producer