The idea that affirmative action leads to a perception that the favored group is inferior is an old and obvious one. If the standards for admitting members of Group X are lower then other students within a college will notice that people who belong to Group X are less qualified. If hiring standards are lowered for Group Y then coworkers will come to see Group Y workers as less capable.
Is it possible that running affirmative action at Company A could cause people at Company B, which hires people without discrimination, to believe that a favored-by-Company-A group is inferior?
One of the folks with whom I talked at NBAA was a charter company CEO. Based on the people he evaluates as pilot candidates for his firm (roughly 100 pilots), he believes that women are inferior as pilots to men.
It is possible that he is a straight-up sexist, but certainly there have been plenty of accomplished women pilots. How could he ignore Hanna Reitsch, for example, a leading test pilot throughout Nazi Germany’s rapid period of innovation?
[Wikipedia notes that Reitsch was not necessarily a proponent of gender equality:
she presented the idea of Operation Suicide to Hitler at Berchtesgaden, which “would require men who were ready to sacrifice themselves in the conviction that only by this means could their country be saved.”
Despite noting her support for Hitler until the end of the war, e.g., “It was the blackest day when we could not die at our Führer’s side,” her accomplishments as an aviator were sufficient that “In 1961, United States President John F. Kennedy invited her to the White House.”]
Is there a way for his belief to be a rational conclusion from facts? How about affirmative action by airlines? Airlines are much more interested in hiring women than they are in hiring men. Consequently they are willing to hire women with the bare minimum qualifications. Occasionally these inexperienced female pilots will flunk out of simulator training or the initial operating experience in the real airplanes that is required by the FAA. However, as most pilots would prefer a job at an airline (better pay, union protection, stronger financials), this would tend to leave only the dregs of the female pilot workforce available to be hired by charter companies.
I’m wondering if this phenomenon is likely to be true elsewhere in the American workforce. The best employers, such as Google and Facebook, are desperate to increase the percentage of women so as to burnish their reputations. This leaves a skewed population for other employers to interview.
Philip Greenspun’s Weblog