I WAS talking with someone recruiting for a newly created position with fairly structured duties. The organization chose to do an internal search, wanting to promote from within.

The message from the supervisor of the person I was talking to is that he needs to hire a woman. It wasn’t that he needs to hire a woman if she’s the best qualified for the position, it was that he needs to hire a woman.

OK, so I’m a woman. And I can tell you that I never have wanted to be hired because I am a woman.

So let’s unpack this. When we hire people into positions in our organizations, in my opinion, we should first and foremost hire the people who are the best qualified to do the work required. These hires are generally people who have done similar work or have transferable skills to ensure they can successfully perform the tasks assigned.

Of course, in order to select the best fit for our position, we must create as diverse a pool of candidates as possible. This may be more difficult for internal hires, but less problematic for external hires. If we cast a wide net, we’re likely to have a robust group of candidates to select from.

If we don’t hire the most prepared or best qualified candidate, we are most likely going to hurt the organization. Or, as a supervisor, we are either going to be micromanaging or dealing with the results of poor performance. Neither works for me, for either the supervisor or the organization.

But, some of you are saying, we need diversity in our organizations, especially in upper management. I don’t disagree. Yet I cannot see promoting someone less qualified over someone more qualified and risking the organization’s future.

And on the flip side, let’s say I hire the woman, primarily because she’s a woman. What’s going to happen when she learns that she was hired because of her gender? How will she feel?

I once was hired into a department that was six men, plus me. One of my colleagues told me about three months after my arrival that I was hired because I was a female. My response? I said, “Well, I guess I just have to prove to you that you didn’t make a mistake.”

Will all women respond that way? Probably not.

And it’s not just women who feel this way. It’s any underrepresented group.

I’m not a fan of reverse discrimination, either. None of us choose our gender or ethnicity before we were born. We’re just born. Then we deal with the hand we’re dealt.

So white men, for example, should not be discriminated against if they are the best candidates in terms of credentials and experiences.

If I don’t hire the person who can best do the job they are being hired to do, then I’m failing the organization. Do I understand the optics of all of this? You bet I do, but as a woman, I never want to hear that another woman was hired “just because of her plumbing.” How do you feel?

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Lynne Richardson is the dean of the College of Business at the University of Mary Washington.

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