“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
— Galatians 3:28
The problem with adding qualifiers in an article is that they often take away from accomplishments. That’s why we generally try to avoid them when we can.
However, sometimes qualifiers seem necessary, such as with reporting on Chrystal Bonner becoming Pangburn’s first female police chief last week. As Mayor Mike Marsh said in an article we ran Thursday, the city “is breaking new ground” in hiring Bonner for the position.
Marsh called Bonner’s new role “very exciting” since there has “never been a female police chief in the city of Pangburn.” The concern with him saying that is that it can be taken to mean that the city promoted Bonner because she’s a woman instead of because she was most qualified for the job. We don’t want it to be seen that way since there’s no indication that the reason she got the job was because of her gender or that it was even a factor.
Our society has engendered this idea of lesser candidates getting a position because of historical inequalities, minority status or quotas, which can muddy the achievements of those in the minority. Of course, the idea came out of discrimination against women and minority races for certain positions that led to efforts to level the playing field, such as through affirmative action (or “targeted goals”).
In a perfect world, that wouldn’t be seen as necessary and we could be assured that the best candidate was hired regardless of race, gender, etc. But this is far from a perfect world.
Instead, we notice (and note) when a woman is named police chief because it just doesn’t happen too often in a male-dominated field. According to research published last year on zippia.com, women make up 9.2 percent of the 3,685 chiefs of police in our country, while the number of women in law enforcement total a little more than 13 percent.
The balance our society has struggled to achieve is with making sure that every candidate is given a fair shot at jobs. We’ve often either undercorrected or overcorrected. That doesn’t mean you are going to find an easy answer here for how we reach that balance. In fact, the risk in writing this column is that it undermines Bonner’s achievement, and that’s definitely not the purpose. We do not need to take away from her accomplishment in any way just because she’s Pangburn’s first female chief.
What we should hope (and believe) is that gender was not a consideration in promoting her, that the decision was made based on city officials feeling she was the best person for the job out of those who applied. If that’s how you took it, that’s great. We should all want to reach that point where qualifiers are no longer needed, where the achievements of anyone aren’t seen as anything more than an achievement.
Maybe it will take more minority hirings to get us there, but as long as our society keeps trying to force members of one group to be hired over members of another, there will be questions about qualifications, over firsts being more important than credentials.
The qualifier for Bonner seemed necessary because she is a first, but don’t expect us to mention gender much beyond an article we plan to publish on the county’s first female police chief, because what matters is merit.