If you’re not a fan of “Jeopardy!” and haven’t been following the news about the host search, here’s the short version of the melodrama. Sony, which produces the iconic quiz show, had a rotation of former contestants, actors, news anchors and an NFL quarterback compete for the hosting position. Once the tryouts were done, Sony announced that the show’s executive producer — an internal candidate — landed the job.
Cue disappointment from many fans, including me, that a diverse hire was just too much of a stretch.
Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, women and minorities are often shut out of positions because of their differences from the decision-makers in charge of hiring.
If you dare question why a more diverse candidate wasn’t selected or even considered, you’re usually met with this trifling statement: “We just want to hire the best person for the job.”
Two things can exist at the same time — a qualified candidate who is also female, Black or Latinx.
The truth is many Americans like the concept of diversity in the workplace until it means challenging the status quo and making a serious effort to change recruiting efforts to be more inclusive.
An overwhelming majority of Americans say it’s a very good thing or somewhat good that the U.S. is made up of people of different races and ethnicities, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center report.
But in that same poll, 74 percent of Americans say employers should only take a person’s qualifications into account when making these decisions, even if it results in less diversity in the workplace.
“As the United States becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, and as companies from Wall Street to Silicon Valley grapple with how to build workforces that reflect these changing demographics, Americans have a complicated, even contradictory, set of views about the impact of diversity and the best way to achieve it,” the Pew report said.
This is why we get a Richards-type selection, someone with an institutional advantage.
Here’s why diversity matters and has to happen on purpose, including considering an applicants’ race and ethnicity in hiring and promotions. Diversity efforts are like recruiting for a football team. On the field, you need different kinds of players to have an exceptional winning season. You wouldn’t complain that a coach is hiring an offensive guard if he already has a great quarterback. The team needs the talent of both types of athletes to move the ball down the field and score points.
Diversity in hiring doesn’t mean denying a qualified White candidate a job, it’s about considering all a candidate’s attributes to balance out your team. The life experiences and cultural background of an applicant can be assets too, in addition to correcting a history of discrimination.
Was Richards, who remains the show’s executive producer, really the best hire for the “Jeopardy!” hosting job?
Compared to the other job candidates, Richards was mediocre. And in case you’re wondering, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was one of my top three picks for the job.
I was also rooting for television stars Mayim Bialik and LeVar Burton. Burton hosted the beloved “Reading Rainbow” on PBS. And for goodness’ sake, Bialik, who brilliantly played a neuroscientist on the spectacular sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” actually has a PhD in neuroscience.
In announcing the hosting pick, Sony said Bialik would host prime-time specials for the quiz show. Bialik was gracious about the sidekick selection but it felt like an appeasement to those who would complain that the entertainment company went with another White guy.
Sony could have managed expectations and, in the interest of transparency, should have said, “We have a strong internal White male candidate, so don’t get your hopes up for change.”
So, here’s a “Final Jeopardy!” answer: Mike Richards.
The correct response is: What is an example of White male privilege?