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August 26, 2019

Diversity and the lack thereof

Ken Kellar

On July 30, County Executive Jan Gardner honored her Finance Division staff of about 20 people. The event was aired on the local government TV station. It showed something odd. The division handles accounting, payroll and financing for the county government.


During the event, each staff member introduced herself. I don’t write “herself” to be politically correct. I write using traditional conventions and would use “himself” for a mixed group. But this group wasn’t mixed. The first employee to introduce herself was a white woman. The last employee was a white woman. And so was each employee in between.


Here is the link to the government video:


If diversity is our strength, the Frederick County Finance Division is not as strong as it could be. Who does the hiring for that group? Does a man or minority have a shot at the next slot, or would that mess up the pattern?


I know men who are accountants. It’s not like they don’t exist. So, what are the odds that random chance and fair hiring practices resulted in the County Finance Division being staffed entirely by white women?


I referenced a 2017 report by the AICPA (Association of International Certified Professional Accountants) which looked at the United States supply and demand for people in the accounting industry. It’s a beautiful report filled with vibrant colors and eye-pleasing graphics just like Liveable Frederick.


With no men on the county finance staff, I figured the supply of male accountants must be very low. However the AICPA report said 53% of accountants are male. So, what are the odds that with half of the supply of accountants being male, the county could end up with a division of 20 women?


Fifty-three percent men and 47% women is pretty close to flipping a coin (50/50) so let’s use that. Let’s look at the chance of not-hiring a male when creating a 20-person division when the man-to-women ratio is 50/50.


During the first hire we flip the coin and it comes up woman. The chance of not hiring a man was 50%. Now let’s flip the coin for the second hire. It comes up woman again. 50% right? Yes and no.


There is a total of four possible outcomes when making two hires from a balanced pool of men and women (M/W). They are W-W, M-M, W-M and M-W. Of those four possibilities in only one case is no man hired. So the odds of hiring two people and having none be a man is ¼ or 25%.


Ms. Gardner’s finance division “flipped a coin” and it landed “woman” 20 times in a row. With a 50/50 chance for each flip (or hire), the odds of an all women division of 20 is .0001% or essentially impossible (that’s ½ raised to the 20th power).


What about race? The AICPA report says the supply of accountants is 63% white. So naturally the chances of an all-white finance division is much higher than an all-woman division. The calculator agrees. The chance of an all-white division of 20 people is .01%. Again, almost impossible with 37% of the hiring pool being non-white.


Well, maybe men and non-whites aren’t applying as often as white women. Suppose only 1 of 10 applicants is a man. The odds of no men on the team then? 12%. Possible, but still pretty unlikely. A 12% chance means if you created eight 20-person divisions (160 people total) you would expect only one of those eight divisions to have no men (when only 1/10th of the applicants are men).


Based on accounting demographics, if the Frederick County Finance Division had a fair hiring practice in place, we would expect in a staff of 20 about 10 men and seven non-whites. These numbers would naturally deviate and not be exact. However, local demographics could be quite different from the national average. But a deviation all the way to zero males and zero minorities is extremely unlikely. While I’m sure not all the county finance positions require an accounting degree, the same logic should still apply. Why all white women?


It appears something screwy is going on in the Frederick County Finance Division. The math says the hiring results can’t be explained by random chance.


What is the makeup of other county divisions? Do they show similar anomalies?


About a week after honoring her mono-cultured finance group, Ms. Gardner announced an audit of our Sheriff’s 287(g) program. Maybe she should have the Finance Division audited?


What say you, Council Members?




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