Highly Discriminating
Why the City Isn’t Fair and Diversity Doesn’t Work

3: Qualifications and Complexity


This chapter explores how the City sustained an impression of merit in the decades following Big Bang and expands on the purposes it served. It shows how a move to graduate-only entry and a tendency to appoint from a small group of elite universities helped confirm that new entrants to the City were exceptionally smart. This focus on ability helped cement the City’s claims to the most complex work, providing further legitimation for its growing rewards, but this chapter shows that meritocratic narratives rest on three main myths. First, that selecting on qualifications allows talent to be identified on an impartial basis. Second, that all similarly qualified applicants have an equal chance of getting in. Third, that scientific selection techniques eliminate bias. This chapter busts these myths to demonstrate that while new entrants often had strong qualifications, recruitment processes were not, on the other hand, impartial or fair. Where City leaders have leveraged narratives of merit, this has relied on a rather contorted definition of the term.

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