After infiltrating our government, schools and corporate boards, it was only a matter of time before woke ideology took flight. Enter United Airlines, which began the week by blasting Georgia for requiring voter IDs despite requiring them to fly and even enter their lounges. Then yesterday, the airline tweeted:

“Our flight deck should reflect the diverse group of people on board our planes every day,” United tweeted. “That’s why we plan for 50% of the 5,000 pilots we train in the next decade to be women or people of color.”

On its face, the idea of hiring pilots based on skin color and sex versus their experience, qualifications, and merit is terrifying. An airline’s most sacred duty is to keep its passengers safe. When boarding a plane, passengers have no choice but to entrust pilots with their lives.

After receiving backlash about its new policy, United issued a clarification. “All the highly qualified candidates we accept into the Academy, regardless of race or sex, will have met or exceeded the standards we set for admittance,” the company said.  

Despite the clarification, United’s hiring policy leaves ample room for concern. If a male pilot has more experience than a female who met United’s admittance standards, will he still be hired first? Or will the job go to the less-qualified woman to fulfill its gender quota? As of now, passengers have no assurance.

As part of its effort to hire more diverse pilots, United announced that, together with JPMorgan Chase, it’s offering “$2.4 million in financial aid to the best and brightest talent, opening the door to a lucrative career for people who previously didn’t have the opportunity to pursue one.”

“We’re in the business of breaking down barriers and we want the pilot population — some of the highest paying jobs in the industry — to be open to a much more diverse pool of candidates,” the company said.

This raises the important distinction between equality of opportunities versus equality of outcomes. Of course, not everyone can afford the education and training required to become a pilot. Expanding the pool of Americans who can pursue this lucrative career through financial aid and other means is a laudable way to unlock untapped talent and level the playing field for individuals who wish to pursue a piloting career.

The social engineering, however, must stop there. In addition to prioritizing identity politics over basic safety, the quest to fulfill gender and racial quotas in hiring decisions undermines the very employees United claims it wants to help.

Race and gender quotas signal that women and minorities cannot reach lucrative positions without special treatment. This actively undermines the hard work that many of these individuals put in to achieve their goals, and undercuts the confidence that they actually earned the positions they hold. It cheapens their achievements by creating a sense of tokenism. When boarding the flight, does any qualified pilot want passengers to question whether they’re flying their plane based on how they look?

Female and minority pilots want to be hired because they can fly a plane. Not because they can fill United’s diversity portfolio. Harnessing the resources of the private sector to create greater opportunities for more Americans to pursue a piloting career is an admirable goal. But cheapening the qualifications, skills and experiences of women and minorities by engineering equality of outcomes is a dangerous pursuit, and one that will have the unintended consequence of keeping these groups grounded, rather than helping them to soar.