Last week I was applying to an internship at a well-known financial institution when I came across a bizarre portion of the application. Titled “self-identification,” I was asked a series of questions that you’d typically expect on a job application. There was nothing abnormal about the self-identification section until I reached the very bottom of the page where, in my opinion, I was asked an extremely invasive and inappropriate question: “Please indicate your sexual orientation.”
I initially could not believe that this was a serious question, much less that the application required an answer for completion. Why did a global financial institution want to know who I enjoy sleeping with? What did it matter to them? I realized that therein lies the problem. It does matter to them, because diversity matters to them.
The application stated that the company can use and disclose the sexual orientation data to management and other personnel involved in hiring decisions for the purposes of the company’s recruitment process and its development of a “diverse talent pipeline.” In other words, the company could and would consider this information when reviewing my application.
My reluctance to answer had nothing to do with the actual substance of the question. In an ideal world, I would have had no problem with checking the box that said “heterosexual.” But it was because I was being asked on the basis of diversity that I sensed a tinge of discrimination. Let’s be real. The company was explicitly stating that it is attempting to increase its diversity, and that is the purpose for its self-identification questions. So was I wrong to think that as a straight male the qualifications were working against me?
Upon completion of the application, I found it even more ironic that the company disclosed that it takes every possible step to make sure individuals are treated equally and that recruitment decisions are solely based on objective and job-related criteria. If that’s true, then why the questions on sexual orientation, or even the questions on race and ethnicity? Would it have been okay if the company had asked me my religion?
We as a society have been sold a narrative that diversity is good. It’s become a quintessential buzz phrase of progressives. It sounds nice so they say it eventually hoping that it will become true. However, to this day I have not met anyone who has been able to defend the promotion of diversity solely for the sake of diversity.
Perhaps initially well-intentioned, diversity efforts in this country have hit a damaging extreme. During the civil rights movement, people like Martin Luther King Jr. rightfully asked to be judged on the content of their character and not the color of their skin. However, decades later it seems like we’re doing the exact opposite.
It’s why, for example, Harvard University is under investigation by the Department of Justice for its affirmative action admission policies. Critics allege that if Harvard was accepting students based on merit, it would have more Asian-American students. This practice likely isn’t limited to Harvard. Why can’t prospective college students be judged on their academic qualifications?
The promotion of diversity should also be criticized at the immigration level. Last week’s New York City terrorist was able to enter the U.S. under the “Diversity Visa Program,” an immigration program that grants visas to underrepresented nationalities as long as they have a high school degree or two-years of job experience in certain occupations. We shouldn’t be handing out green cards as part of a lottery. Entry into the U.S. is arguably one of the most prestigious privileges in the world. It should be reserved for those who are highly skilled or highly educated — not simply to make our country more diverse.
It’s clear that our society has shifted away from a meritocracy and moved toward one that seems to value race, ethnicity, sex and sexual orientation above all else. I hope one day we can return to a society that values and encourages hard work and achievement.
Eduardo Neret is a UF finance senior. His column appears on Wednesdays.