D&I the Way to Save the Day (I’ve Been Away So Long)
This week marks four years since I retired from UC Berkeley. Every time I reflect on it I experience that paradoxical sense of time: it feels as if I left ages ago — and just yesterday.
I still think about work occasionally, and not just when UC Berkeley’s in the news. Today I’m thinking about it because on Tuesday, the San Francisco Giants became the first American baseball team to put a woman on the field during a game that counts. Thirty-one year-old Alyssa Nakken took over as the Giants’ first base coach after the regular coach was thrown out of the game by an umpire.
Congrats to her and the Giants — and about time! But how does that relate to my old job?
One of my tasks as risk manager at UC Berkeley was to teach a class for supervisors about employment risk. We covered the usual suspects: discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination. But I also spent five or ten minutes talking about the virtues of diversity and inclusion, not just as the kumbaya, politically correct thing to do, but as a way of improving the performance of each unit and the campus as a whole.
I argued inductively, but my argument was a spectacular one. In 1991 an 11 year-old girl, Jaycee Dugard, was kidnapped in a little town near Lake Tahoe. Her story dominated the news for days, but all attempts to find her failed. The world — even, to some degree, her family — moved on.
Skip ahead eighteen years to 2009, when a skeevy preacher started showing up in Sproul Plaza to hector the students about Jesus. The preacher brought along two daughters, sallow, dirty, and withdrawn. Our male police officers sensed something wrong between father and children, but neither the father nor kids were violating any laws, so the male officers respected the family relationship. But two female police employees, one a civilian and one a sworn officer, had an even stronger sense something was wrong — and they followed up. They did a background check and learned the preacher was a registered sex offender. That led to a parole check at the preacher’s home, which soon led to the discovery that the girls’ mother was — yup, Jaycee Dugard, whom the preacher had imprisoned and abused all those years.
I’m old enough to remember when there were no female police officers — the only allowable type was a big, traditionalist, authoritarian male. Were that the only type of officer when the skeevy preacher came to UC Berkeley in 2009, Jaycee Dugard might still be a captive.
So how does that relate to the San Francisco Giants?
Now, thanks to the Giants, I have another vivid example of how diversity and inclusion make organizations more effective. The Giants’ principal shareholder is a rabid right-winger named Charles Johnson. But he’s a passive investor and did not object when the Giants hired the first Muslim president of baseball operations in major league history, Farhan Zaidi. Zaidi, in turn, hired a Jewish manager, Gabe Kapler. And Kapler, in turn, added a woman, the aforementioned Nakken, to his coaching staff.
Lest you think those were unqualified affirmative action hires, symbolic gestures to appease the liberal Bay Area fan base, recall this: thanks in good part to Zaidi, Kapler, and Nakken, the Giants won more games last year than any other major league team — in fact, more games than the Giants won any year in their 138-season history.
America’s unmentionable secret is that liberals are its most hard-headed realists. Diversity and inclusion aren’t just virtue signaling. They’re smart business — and public service.