Skepticism of Nepotism

Lucy Tu, Opinions Editor

Every single one of us is aware of the fact that we are unable to change who our family is. After all, you are reminded of this each time your mom pulls out her phone to take a picture of you winning an award or taking a sip of water. Not to mention the Craigslist searches you made for a “new, not-embarrassing uncle” right after yours chaperoned your junior prom and did the Cupid Shuffle. We cannot help who our relatives are, but for some people, this is a pro instead of a con. Many people use their family relationships in the form of nepotism.

But what is nepotism? Defined as the favoritism of certain people (in an occupational sense) over others based on family influence without regard for merit, nepotism is present in every industry. From film to business to government, this modernized form of monarchy has developed at a rapid rate.

Prominent examples of nepotism can be found all across media and politics. For instance, model and reality TV star Kendall Jenner is widely admonished based on the belief that she is favored by designers and editors over other models simply due to her family name. Also, within the U.S. government, President Donald Trump has been questioned about his choice to make his daughter and son-in-law — who have no political experience — two of his top advisors, despite nepotism laws.

Additionally, it is already evident that a large percentage of Americans are going into the same career field as their parents. Based on U.S. Census data, 1 in 5 American men will have worked the same job for the same employer as their fathers, by the time they turn 30.

This line of succession is largely the result of it being easier to follow in the footsteps of a family member. Not only do you have someone to guide you, but having pre-existing connections always helps.

However, easier is not always better, especially when we look at the big picture and realize that we are favoring connections over comparative skill. One may argue that professional and social contacts are merely a part of how our modern economy works. Still, while connections may help someone find opportunities, they should not outweigh more important qualifications.

According to a Pew Research Study conducted in November of 2017, when observing nepotism and managerial promotions, 82% of those with familial connections who were promoted were far less qualified than their occupational counterparts. This statistic exhibits the drastic discrepancy that nepotism causes.

The idea that it is beneficial to have a family member lead beside you because of familiarity or trust is essentially irrelevant. Just compare this idea to how nepotism increases bias in important decisions or to the fact that nepotism reduces diversity in perspectives and life experience. No amount of comfort or familiarity can make up for a lack of progressive innovation.    

Although nepotism is widespread, the situation is not hopeless. Perhaps we cannot help who our family is, and who would turn down a great opportunity just because their relative was the one who offered it? However, we can work hard to make sure our qualifications are deserving of the opportunities we receive. By doing this, we are fighting nepotism piece by piece. Ultimately, if we all fight our own small battles, the war against nepotism can be won.