Heather Mac Donald’s Diversity Delusion

Abe Gaustad
3 min readJan 28, 2019

Mac Donald is an example of the very bias that she claims does not exist.

Heather Mac Donald’s book The Diversity Delusion is a call for pure meritocracy. She proclaims, with a derisive sneer towards college students and activists, that any disparities in gender or racial groups are derived from natural inequalities, not from institutional racism or sexism. She and her fans would argue that, while racism and sexism existed once, it’s all behind us now.

It’s a nice story, albeit a fictional one.

The right wing invests a lot in this story, and it’s not hard to see why. If no discrimination exists today, and the effects of past discrimination have completely faded away, then the world is fine, maybe close to perfect. The rich and powerful are better people, and the poor and weak are worse people. Conservative institutions are exonerated and no government intervention is needed. But to tell this story, they must ignore empirical evidence of bias while punishing, as much as possible, those who argue that discrimination still exists.

But in its quest for an ideologically satisfying fiction, the right has sacrificed every last bit of self-reflection. Even the most talented right-wing pundits slip up occasionally, revealing their prejudices in moments of frustration. The less socially skilled simply repeat their prejudices ad nauseam in the comments of conservative Youtube videos.

One would think, however, that a polished speaker like Mac Donald would be careful enough not to admit to bias, which, remember, does not and cannot exist anymore. And yet, in a speech at Hillsdale College, she explains what happens when she sees a female name come up for consideration for a CEO position:

“Even before California mandated female board hires, I routinely voted against every female who shows up on a proxy ballot, since I assume that she is there because of her sex and not her business experience.”

This is a textbook example of bias. Mac Donald thinks that a woman could not possibly possess the business acumen to be a viable CEO. How quickly the vital principle of meritocracy was tossed aside based on nothing but assumption and arrogance.

What’s striking in how blind Mac Donald and others are to their own bias. But that’s the point. If Mac Donald won’t vote for a female CEO, how many men won’t? How many women were denied even a chance to be denied by Mac Donald because someone else down the line thinks the same way as she does? How many girls are discouraged from even pursuing a career in business or science or mathematics? The answer is that no one knows. But one thing we know from watching Mac Donald’s speech is that denying the problem isn’t significantly different from being the problem.

Near the end of her talk at Hillsdale, Mac Donald issues a challenge:

”[…]if [bias] is so ubiquitous, give me just one name of a female faculty candidate or an underrepresented minority who was not given a job which he or she had superior qualifications for. Or, I’ll make it easy on you, we simply overlooked in a job search.”

If she wants a name, I suggest she go back to those proxy votes and take a look at some of the names that she passed over.