Do white men want it more than anyone else?
In some ways, that’s at the heart of a lawsuit involving white firefighters that ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court last week.
In 2003, the New Haven Fire Department had a number of open lieutenant and captain positions. Firefighters applying for the promotions were given three months to prepare for oral and written exams.
When the results of the tests came it it turned out that no black firefighters scored high enough for the promotion. As a result, the city threw out the tests because they determined they were bias.
As you can imagine, the predominately white firefighters who passed the test were pissed off. They sued, claiming that they’re civil rights had been violated.
In news reports last week, many of the white firefighters stressed how they studied long and hard, inferring that their colleagues may not have been as diligent.
The Supreme Court justices seemed divided over the case, but one comment from conservative Justice Antonin Scalia really made me think:
“You had some applicants who were winners and their promotion was set aside.”
Did the white men who passed the exams want to win more than the black men? Or were these biased tests?
That’s the dispute in a nutshell.
It got me thinking more globally about why we continue to see a lack of minorities and women in leadership roles.
What if it’s because we don’t want it as much?
I neighbor asked me something this weekend that got me thinking about the firefighters.
She’s researching a paper about women and equality for school and she wondered why despite the Women’s Movement and affirmative action programs, women still have not achieved universal equality.
How much do we blame ourselves?
Recently several women from my teen years friended me on Facebook. I was disheartened to see how many of them never pursued any type of career or vocation, and were proud to write about how they spent their days shopping.
And I’ve often heard women say they don’t think women make good leaders.
I’m not being naive here. I know the system has been skewed against women and minorities for a long time. I know there are tests out there that favor certain groups over others.
But should there be some thought given to personal responsibility, to whether or not we want it enough?
While we spend endless hours reading leadership books and attending leadership conferences, maybe part of the discussion should be about desire.
If suddenly the playing field were even for everyone involved would we all be ready to take the field?
– Katherine Guiney contributed research to this post