The answer to every question is sexism. Maybe racism. And ageism.

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a7502033c5805b7b_educated-black-womanMatthew Yglesias wrote an interesting article called Why Are 83.4 Percent of Fortune 500 Board Seats Held By Men?

I think the answer is institutional sexism.

If you want to throw in cronyism and the halo effect, I won’t disagree with you.

People do business with other people they like, know and trust. That’s called likability.

(There is valid research on how likability impacts the hiring process. You can read Predictably Irrational and The Likeability Factor: How to Boost Your L-Factor and Achieve Your Life’s Dreams for more insight.)

But likability can be a cover for sexism, racism, ageism, able-ism and misogyny.

While nobody wants to accuse our most profitable corporations of being biased and sexist, it’s true.

If you start out with a system — Fortune 500 board seats — that already skews heavily male, and you ask search committees and executive recruiting firms that look a lot like you to help you fill vacancies on those boards, you end up with a selection process that gives you candidates who look very familiar.

Institutionalized sexism. No one ever is to blame. Everyone is to blame.

So let me ask you something: what’s the harm with an intentional effort to fill these seats with women or minorities?

What if leading companies like LinkedIn, Google, Microsoft, or Facebook made a statement and said that they are filling future board vacancies in such a way to reflect the general population?

Yes, I’m talking about a quota system.

Is that a bad idea? Could any good come of that?

What’s the worst that could happen when you engineer diversity?

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