I’m Tired of Trying to Explain Why Representation Matters to White Men

There is no data for every aspect of life

Karla Starr
4 min readMay 29, 2022

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Consider a few groups:
•U.S. Presidents, Senators, and members of the Congress
•CEOs
•the military
•teachers
•doctors at a hospital

Wouldn’t you want the best person for the job — regardless of their background or what they look like?

Here’s one way to make sure that happens: encourage everyone to pursue all subjects and areas of interest. Make school free for students, and well-funded by taxpayers—regardless of school district. Give people lots of support to let their abilities flourish. Encourage diversity—don’t say that it’s irrelevant. To get the best people for the job, draw from the deepest well possible.

How can we know if we’ve reached this goal?

If everyone in a particular position looks the same, there’s a good chance that you are not drawing from a deep well.

Not a deep well: (Celal Bayar addresses U.S. Congress, 1954; Wikimedia)

I still remember seeing a poster of the U.S. Presidents the first day I walked into my third grade classroom. My first thought was “that’s no fair that only guys can be President.”

When you’re 8, you see the world in black-and-white terms. Even if someone had been standing next to me to tell me that I could be President, I still had a lifetime of social cues to pick up on: grandparents and teachers who called me, but not boys, “mouthy.” A lack of role models, pruning a possible version of my future self as President.

Because it’s impossible to accurately map every inch of reality, we can never have precise figures that would explain the impact of representation—but representation matters. Without it, we can’t envision ourselves in that role.

Without Diversity: The Rich Get Richer

A lack of diversity in public spheres can create a self-reinforcing cycle that hands out rewards more easily to those who look like past winners.

The mere exposure effect is a phenomenon that explains why we like people we’ve seen before—“if it’s familiar, it hasn’t eaten you yet.” Over time…

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Karla Starr

Speaker & author x2, inc. Making Numbers Count (w/ Chip Heath). Behavioral science, cultural history, numbers.