Conservative groups have targeted American Airlines over its push for diversity hiring and that’s… a little weird?
The National Center for Public Policy Research and the American Civil Rights Project, are demanding that American Airlines stop considering race while hiring just as the Fort Worth-based carrier has begun evaluating its diversity practices.
American has been trying to increase the representation of people of color in its pilot and executive ranks, two fields that have been overwhelmingly and historically white and male, all while the industry faces a national pilot shortage. As of 2021, more than 80% of American’s pilots were white and 95% were men.
…In January 2021, the company said it set goals around Black representation and retention, met those goals by December. Black representation at the director and above level increased by 50% versus 2020, and the carrier retained at least 90% of these leaders, according to a 2022 DEI progress update.
American Airlines is certainly not turning away qualified white pilots. They don’t have enough pilots, and when you’re short on talent it makes sense to go looking for it in places you hadn’t before.
Five years ago the NAACP issued (an unfair) ‘travel warning’ against American Airlines. The new conservative group letter helps American Airlines because if there’s one thing that will burnish a company’s reputation for diversity it’s being attacked by opponents for trying to hard to achieve diversity.
It’s mostly seemed like talk to me, though. Before promoting Lakshman Amaranayaka as Vice President of Philadelphia, there weren’t any African Americans in an airline role of Vice President or above (i.e. excluding HR). A few years ago a company newsletter featuring Black History Month used photos of employees, not a single one of which was black.
When an American Airlines leader recommended to Doug Parker that he help cement the personal narrative around race ceding the role of Chairman of the airline to one of the carrier’s black board members, the suggestion went unanswered. In the end Greg Smith, former Boeing CFO who joined the airline’s board just last year, replaced Parker as Chairman.
Probably the strangest thing here though is that conservatives used to believe that people – or a company – ought to be able to choose whom to associate with and whom to hire; that it should be up to the company whether or not to pursue diversity goals. Yet here they’re contemplating “a lawsuit” to involve the government in American’s hiring practices. That’s not conservative, at least as it was understood up until the mid-twenty teens.