The Use of Misleading Titles and Statistics in Media
It seems that we have lost fair-balanced discussions within our various forms of media. Most of us know there is a fine line between reporting the facts and promoting one’s agenda. Unfortunately, there seems to be an abundance of authors, commentators, and reporters promoting personal beliefs in reckless ways. The other day, I found an article on Five-Thirty-Eight alarming, and two euphemisms popped into my head. The first is divide and conquer. The second is that numbers don’t lie. Unfortunately, the division of us against them creates a situation where no change can occur. No, numbers do not lie, but they can be misrepresented and used to promote a particular bias.
A Psychology Ph.D. student from New York wrote the article I reference above. I will not call out the author because I do not believe in public shaming, and her writing, although mistitled and inappropriately argued, was not incorrect within some realms. Her message was that some work environments are ill-equipped to accommodate current situations and circumstances that accompany modern-day workers. But her message was clouded by a personal bias. Yes, issues of single moms and dads and their ability to care for children are issues of concern regarding the employer-employee relationship. We also need to be mindful of different work styles and lingering discriminatory practices. However, the title of her article was about people’s desire to continue working remotely. Her article’s more accurate title should have been Contemporary Social Issues That Fuel a Desire for The Remote Office.
In her article, the author states that 52% of survey respondents wanted to continue working remotely. So roughly half of the employees wanted to return to the office environment, and half didn’t. However, she chose to look at the data from only a Black and White lens and gender. I would argue that reviewing the data by age group and position/title would have yielded a more informative and less divisive article. She inferred through her comparison of 30% White males who wanted to return to the office instead of only 16% of Black males that this was a Black-White thing and then compared the male to female responses inferring this was a male-female thing. The inference being that the White male population wants to return to the office environment. But, when you flip the dialogue, 30% want to return to the office environment also means that 70% of White males do NOT want to return to the office, which is statistically significant.
So now that we know, most White and Black males do NOT want to return to the office environment. Next, we need to look at the male-female division. Roughly 23% of Black and White women want to return to the office environment — or 77% of Black and White females do NOT want to return. Based on her portrayal of the numbers, it appears 70–86% of the Male/Female — Black/White population do not want to return to the office environment. So now we have to wonder who makes up the remaining numbers to reach the 52%? Rather than tell us this answer, she promotes her own opinion regarding workplace discrimination and substantiates this claim by interviewing a professor at a university in the South. Now, I will neither affirm nor deny that the office environment is inherently discriminatory because that is not the point of this article. But since she only uses inferences substantiated through poor argumentation, we are not sure where the inherent discrimination is coming from? Her writing is clear that she blames White males. Still, her data proves that argument false. Neither White males nor females nor Black males or females want to return to the office environment.
We all have passions and beliefs. We live in times where past atrocities are finally getting the recognition they deserve, where gender roles for males are becoming more progressive, and where contemporary parenting, financial, and workplace needs are rapidly evolving in ways that will bring about more significant pressures. These truths are not an excuse to misrepresent an argument with an inaccurate title, nor should the numbers be used to misrepresent or support a personal bias visa vie an inference. We need to stop the blame game, stop looking for ways to divide us further, and look for ways to unite and fix the systemic problems. As long as we allow misrepresentation of numbers to support a blame game, we will not evolve into a better society.