Once upon a time, a group of Martian scientists discovered the technology for radio. There was great excitement on Mars around this discovery and it was quickly decided that they would play music on this radio station. Music on Mars is very different to music on earth, with no real discernible difference in ability – in fact, every single Martian sounds exactly the same, whether young or old, male or female. This doesn’t matter however, as every Martian loves music anyway, so the launch of the radio station was much anticipated on the planet.
“How do we decide which artists we play?” was one of the first questions posed. There is no difference in ability between any of the artists, so this was something of a problem. “I know! We’ll pick the artists we playlist at random”. The word went out that Martians could apply to be heard on the radio and 100,000 Martians all applied, 50,000 male martians and 50,000 female martians. It was decided to pick 20 artists at random. When the picks were made, 15 of those on the playlist were male and 5 were female – an unfortunate occurrence, but that is how random numbers work! The procedure was completely fair however.
The radio station launched and it was a complete success! The radio station was the most talked about subject on Mars that year (relegating the subject of mashed potato to second place for the first time in the history of the planet).
A year passed and the committee of the radio sat down to discuss the plans for the next year. The chairman of the committee proposed that they employ exactly the same idea as last year, picking artists at random – after all, they all have the same ability. “Hold on” said Hugo, one of the green skinned fellows on the committee, “I’m not sure I agree!”. “Why ever not?” asked the chairman. “Well, it’s pretty clear that the male artists are better. They’ve sold more records this year, they’ve played more gigs, they sell more merchandise, they’re on more magazine covers and whenever we get round to inventing TV, they’ll probably feature more on there too.”
The chairman thought about this but didn’t agree. “Surely that is just because of the disparity of numbers at the start of the year?”. “Well, no” said Hugo. “Why did male artists win most of the MMA Awards this year then? They won six out of eight. It’s clear the public love male artists.” Once again the chairman disagreed. “Isn’t that simply the disparity again?”. “No”, said Hugo. “I think female artists should work a little harder to get noticed, they’re clearly not doing enough. When they start selling as many records as their male counterparts, that’s when we give female artists equal radio play. But right now, this is simply not the case. We need to look after the interests of the radio station, and male artists are where it’s at right now!”
The board decided to take a vote on the issue. Hugo, being the loudest voice on the panel, was the most persuasive. It was a close-run vote, but six members of the committee agreed with Hugo and only four voted against him. It was decided for the following year that 15 male artists would be picked for the playlist and only 5 female artists would feature.
Hugo was satisfied. He firmly believed in his convictions and year on year he was proved right. Male artists continued to dominate the airwaves, won most of the awards and had the most fans. The chairman, who many years ago wondered if it was simply the disparity, is now convinced that Hugo was right all along and the votes are no longer a close run thing – every year it is now unanimously agreed that male artists will dominate the playlists. Every few years a Martian might suggest that male and female artists have exactly the same ability, but they’d be simply shouted down for their ridiculous view – “Look at the numbers!”