The reason for reinforcing positive discrimination is that you are not aware of your own bias towards negative discrimination.
And honestly we aren't. We cannot judge equal, because we are extremely biased. Artificial skewing to confront people with more and more of XYZ is a good thing as it help estimating objectively.
I caught myself questioning a young woman who said she was working in machine learning several times, to get to the root of what she was doing really (turns out the real stuff). I wouldn't have done it in the same way with a guy (i assume).
So in other words you think it is perfectly fine to treat people inequally based on what they are? Some people just happen to be "more equal" than others?
> And honestly we aren't. We cannot judge equal, because we are extremely biased. Artificial skewing to confront people with more and more of XYZ is a good thing as it help estimating objectively.
Who decides how much "artificial skewing" is enough and on what grounds? There can be no correctness or authority over this, and as such any kind of skewing is wrong.
> I caught myself questioning a young woman who said she was working in machine learning several times, to get to the root of what she was doing really (turns out the real stuff). I wouldn't have done it in the same way with a guy (i assume).
Just like we dislike that guy with long hair. Or that guy with pink bread. Or that terribly tall guy. Or that bald woman. Or that .... whatever doesn't fit the "mainstream" what would be expected from a person in that field. This is a symptom of people not understanding that we're all people, and we're all equal and should be treated as such, regardless of our differences. It's first and foremost a mentality issue, whether that can be solved or not is another thing. Adding more discrimination to "balance" things is like giving opposing forces more weapons to "balance" the odds and thus avoid the slaughter. No need to mention where it leads to.
For people who are female, gay or black it's not a choice.
A Star Trek fan with a comment on Captain Picard: "Surely by the 24th century, they would have found a cure for male pattern baldness."
Gene Roddenberry replied, "No, by the 24th century, no one will care."
(Though I think Roddenberry at first did care.) This is the attitude zxcdw is taking. It doesn't matter if something is a choice or not, if it's irrelevant to the context under consideration then it's irrelevant. Long hair, baldness, gender, sexuality, race, all seem irrelevant under the context of tech jobs and conferences. If there is discrimination based on irrelevant details, that's a problem with who is doing the discriminating, and giving an artificial leg-up to the discriminatee is a less effective solution than finding a suitable punishment (fired, stern talking to, etc.) to the discriminator. I'm in favor of giving incentives for the behavior of not caring about these things instead of giving incentives to discriminatees to be over-sensitive.
Where I may be in disagreement with zxcdw (I don't know) is that I have no problem with discrimination on relevant details. If someone is dumb, I wouldn't want to hire them for any technical job. (Similarly I wish we'd get rid of minority grants and artificial leg-ups like effectively adding SAT points to a new university student applicant. RyanZAG's comment on this page could have replaced 'conferences' with 'universities' and 'speakers' with 'students' and still be a coherent argument.) If it just so happens that all humans are not equal (something I believe), there may indeed be clusters of people that have a high correlation with one relevant detail (such as fitness for a particular line of work) and another supposedly irrelevant detail (such as their gender or race or sexuality). One can notice such clusters but it would still be improper to start caring about the irrelevant details just as much as the relevant ones.
Edit: mgkimsal made a good comment above on how things such as gender and cultural background can be relevant to contexts like conference speakers, where one might otherwise assume them to be irrelevant.
As far this discussion goes my main concern was that conflating chosen traits with inherited ones is derailing the discussion. They are very different with completely different forces are at play since 'chosen traits' are by definition acts of social signaling while 'inherited traits' are just that: inherited.